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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

I don’t have a team to root for in this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX. The Packers choked like Luca Brasi and the 49’ers were never in the hunt.

That said, I still plan to watch the game although not out of parochial loyalty because it’s hometown-hosted in Satan’s crotch.

Red carpet moment.

Thanks to the NFL’s marquee event, Arizona’s all over social media; the blogosphere; the traditional newscasts; and of course, all the sports channels.

Local chamber of commerce types have overstated their Op-eds and overcooked their media interviews with tongues and tails wagging like nervous Cocker Spaniels who piddle when guests ring the doorbell. Can’t fault them, though. This is Arizona’s red carpet moment.

“The Super Bowl of Sex.”

But the fact is, despite all the media hype and hoopla, I find myself agreeing with Matt Brown, one of my Arizona lawyer blogging amigos, who a few days ago was justifiably in high dudgeon not over the game but over crackdowns by “sociopathic authority figures” in the lead-up to the big game. Mix predatory cops, lazy prosecutors, broadly-worded criminal statutes and onerous mandatory sentences and you have a prescription for easy guilty plea deals for “Super Bowl Johns,” he opines in his post, “The Superbowl . . . Of Sex?,” which was not only aptly argued and titillatingly titled but amusingly angry.

Hookers not haboobs in Super Bowl forecast.

Matt’s a criminal defense lawyer and so he’s allowed to get deflate-gated over the “sleazy” and “desperate” entrapment tactics that make life so easy for local law enforcement feeding the “criminal-justice conveyor belt.”

According to local and national news media, the Phoenix forecast calls not for ‘haboobs’ — but hookers since allegedly, “hordes of sex-crazed Superbowl attendees are currently descending on our fair state with an unquenchable desire” for paid sex.

And while Arizona’s tourism boosters and business types want very much for the Super Bowl to give Arizona a chance to change its tarnished image, I tend to agree more with Matt Brown’s concluding paragraph, “If the powers that be in this state wanted to teach the rest of the country a lesson for thinking Arizona maybe wasn’t the cruel, backwards place it seems to be based on our government’s perpetual quest to out-stupid the rest of the country, mission accomplished. If the rest of the country is lucky, they’ll learn to not acknowledge us anymore. They’ll certainly not want to visit again, and I can’t blame them.”

But what about ‘dem Cardinals?

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Photo Credits: Ready to play, by frankieleon at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license; Juno and Melon summer 2012, by Ray Larabie at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license; DSC_0769 by Greg Gorman at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license;Satan’s Super Congress, by DonkeyHotey at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

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https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9c/2007feb-sushi-odaiba-manytypes.jpg/320px-2007feb-sushi-odaiba-manytypes.jpgA number of years ago when lawyering was not even a twinkle in my eye, I traveled to Flagstaff, Arizona on overnight business. For dinner that evening, my employee suggested of all things — that we have sushi. Ever dubious, I asked, “Sushi in the desert?” Well, he found a restaurant and we tried it. And let’s just say it wasn’t good.

Fast forward to 2015 and little has changed fine dining-wise in the desert. In particular, going out for sushi is a bad idea. Save for those folks who think ‘good sushi’ is oxymoronic, you still won’t find good — much less excellent sushi among the saguaro, scorpions, sand and sidewinders.

Phoenix sushi establishments can of course, buy overnight flash-frozen ‘fresh’ sushi-grade fish for a price. But the thing is — the farther from the coast — the more problematic a dependable palatability. At age 19, I learned that good sushi is not only about freshness, texture, and quality but about firm, dense, aromatic rice. I was fortunate to learn this from an Issei Japanese cuisine gastronomer who was my guide.

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/m/matthewhull/preview/fldr_2004_12_08/file0002050956242.jpgLast night with no thanks to Yelp, once more I stepped into the breach of my better judgment and tried a well-established local sushi eatery that was new to me. Like virtually all sushi establishments in the desert, it was another one of those prolific nondescript strip-mall restaurants. Not cute on the outside or the inside.

For not the first time, I was again burned in the desert. I’d forgotten the six essential things I’d come up with long ago to avoid wasting good money on bad sushi. Hope springs eternal in the human belly — “but man never is, always to be blessed.”

First, as any casino buffet employee can tell you, ‘all-you-can-eat’ is the triumph of quantity over quality. Steer clear of all-you-can-eat sushi.

Second, when the sushi chefs only speak Spanish, the odds are good they weren’t classically trained in Japan. Third, if the crab served is the pulverized, shaped, colored and cured fish variety, so much for authenticity.

Fourth, in the way you should bypass Mexican restaurants without any Mexican customers or for that matter, any ethnic restaurant sans its share of knowing native connoisseurs, avoid a sushi restaurant bereft of Asian diners. Fifth, if they don’t have uni on the menu, question their bona fides. And sixth, if the people recommending a sushi establishment to you think mayonnaise and cream cheese smothered cooked fish is sushi, your prospects are dimmed considerably.

In sum, if Portland, Oregon where I spent time last summer is Foodie Heaven, Phoenix and Maricopa County remain Foodie Hell. Forget my “Pho King VIP” credentials or the local paper’s smarmy boosters, you won’t find this town listed anytime soon on any credible top-rated restaurants list whether for sushi or anything else, not for instance, either here or here or certainly not here.

In the place that supposedly invented the abominable chimichanga thereby proving that anything can be deep-fried — when it comes to food, Phoenix remains a bad dining town.

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Photo Credits: Many types of sushi ready to eat, by Nesnad at Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; half_fish.jpg By matthew_hull at MorgueFile free photos;Crab Sticks, by Natto at ja.wikipedia at Wikimedia Commons, released under the GNU Free Documentation License; Waiting for Ramen, by Travis Wise at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution License.

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It’s been a few years since I last made reference to bacon. And that’s despite my knowing full well that a lot of people think bacon ought to go with just about everything, perhaps even “The Irreverent Lawyer.” Sir Francis Bacon, after all, was a lawyer. I can hardly aspire to better. “Judges must be aware of hard constructions and strained inferences, for there is no worse torture than the torture of laws, Bacon famously opined.

But intentional puns aside, have you ever tried a bacon sundae? Or a bacon mint?

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/71/Dennys_Maple_Bacon_Sundae_%285576479106%29.jpg/319px-Dennys_Maple_Bacon_Sundae_%285576479106%29.jpg

My last porkbelly post.

In 2011 when I last made a rasher reference, it was about how in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Thompson v Connick. My post this time, though, is scarcely as indignantly infuriating.

So rather than rant again about the prevalent prosecutorial flouting of the rule in Brady v. Maryland, I’ve instead chosen to post about bacon and how medical science has supposedly found beneficial uses for the artery-clogging comestible. We’re now told there are purportedly “3 ways to use bacon as medical treatment.”

According to scientific literature, bacon’s high salt content induces swelling and blood vessel constriction so that it promotes clotting, ergo, it’s good to stop nosebleeds as a nasal tampon made out of bacon. And then there’s the use of bacon fat as bait to entice dermis-damaging infectious larvae to the skin surface for facile, quick tweezer removal. The larvae are left behind by a particularly nasty insect. And last, there’s the medical use of bacon fat again but this time as an ingredient in a topical itch cream for scabies. (Hat tip to the magazine, Mother Jones at http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/01/3-real-medical-conditions-bacon-can-cure )

With apologies to the physicians I hold in the highest esteem, I nevertheless remain skeptical about newfangled claims from our cutting-edge medical practitioners. Take for instance the advice, which I’ve dutifully followed about taking daily low dose aspirin. As it now it turns out, there’s news that 1 in 10 patients have been inappropriately prescribed aspirin.

As a friend recently pointed out to me hearing again my frustrated reflections on how often doctors come up with errant diagnoses, “There’s a reason they’re called practicing physicians” he quipped sardonically.

No matter, though, for those not believing in the wonders of smeared bacon fat salvation. Methinks there’s something to the notion that bacon does go with everything — so why not FREE CLE for equally practicing attorneys? The latest Free CLE roundup follows along with the usual disclaimers about content, continued availability, and acceptance for credit by your jurisdiction.

FREE CLE

Stafford Publishing

Sign Up to Receive Your Free Webinar Download

Metropolitan Corporate Counsel

Compensation Series Webinar: What’s Next for Director Compensation

Date: Thursday, January 29, 2015

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Clifford Law Offices

2015 Webinar: “The Ethics of Conflicts of Interest”

MCLE Information: Clifford Law Offices is an accredited Illinois MCLE provider. This program has been approved for 2.00 hours of professional responsibility credit in Illinois.

Date: Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015

Time: 2:30-4:30 p.m.

register-now

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Miller Law Group

In-House Counsel Webinar Series
January 22, 2015 – 11:00am – 12:00pm
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Legal Update for Lawyers
(1.0 hour of Elimination of Bias MCLE Credit)

Click here to register

Employment Law Update Webinar Series
January 29, 2015 – 10:00am – 11:30am
California’s New Paid Sick Leave Law: An Employer’s Guide
(1.5 hours of HRCI & MCLE Credit)

Click here to register

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National Academy of Continuing Legal Education (NACLE)

In association with Frankfurt Kurnit, “free access to a variety of Frankfurt Kurnit courses on topics ranging from legal ethics, to advertising compliance, to employment law – and more”

Registration required (NOTE THIS IS THE NOW CORRECTED LINK). https://www.nacle.com/Register 

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Barkley Court Reporters

Leveraging Trial Technology in a Visual Society (1 hour)

“This program will prepare litigation departments for trial in the 21st century. From scanned exhibits to 3-D animated videos, our trial tech specialist will explain all the elements of visual trial preparation and presentation. Learn to utilize state-of-the-art technology to convey information visually and maximize communication with jurors.”
(1 Credit – IL, NY nontransitional, CA, NV)

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FREE LIVE CLE SEMINAR

The City of Surprise, Arizona

Free seminar on recent employment law and use law cases

Location: The City of Surprise – Public Safety Auditorium, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza, Surprise, AZ 85374

Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2015, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

This activity is worth 2.0 CLE credits.

Registration is FREE. Contact (623) 222-1157

RSVP by February 4, 2015.

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Almost FREE:

1000 Friends of Florida for monthly webinars on planning, development and growth issues facing Florida

February 11, 2015, Noon to 1:30 p.m.
Victor Dover on Street Design:  The Secret to Great Cities and Towns
Cost $10 per participant
Register Now!

March 11, 2015, Noon to 1:30 p.m.
2015 Florida Legislative Update
Cost $10 per participant
Register Now!

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Photo Credits: Bacon mints, by Ryan McFarland at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution license; Denny’s Maple Bacon Sundae at Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license; Library Visitor, umjanedoan by at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution license.

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People 3050About a year ago, I again posted about how far, in the minds of some, the ‘noble profession of law’ has slipped its ‘surly bonds — but not ‘to touch the face of God’ — thanks in part to lawyer advertisers.

Ah, thank the lawyer hordes relentlessly pursuing virtually unrestrained inventively immoderate ways to differentiate themselves in a glutted legal market.

One of my ‘favorite’ examples of the inventive immoderation remains 2011’s “Chasing ambulances? Some say lawyer’s latest ad crosses taste boundaries.” 1

File:BenjaminMPalmerYoung.jpg

No cheer here. Benjamin M. Palmer (1818-1902)

Meanwhile, those subscribing to the more prosaic view of lawyers as members of Benjamin M. Palmer’s long ago “solemn priesthood”2 remain shocked, aghast and dismayed.

But get a grip — of whatever, including all four cheeks if you have to. After all, those who take a business-minded view of the law will instead deem such off-the-wall efforts as merely needfully aggressive stratagems to project a requisite brand and market differentiation.

Consumer attention-spans are short; shock-value diluted; social media cheap and available; and reality-television the exemplar. Therefore, the law-as-business types while possibly conceding without much lamentation that the boundaries of good taste are stretched, will nonetheless pronounce those boundaries incalculably elastic in a crowded marketplace. See, for instance, “Super bowl, super-sized and Jamie Casino’s super advertisement.”

Caucasian businesswoman with finger pointing upwards uidTsk-tsking the ignobility and calling instead for higher purpose are the likes of former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm who writing for the Michigan Bar magazine stated,“The practice of law is a noble profession. We lawyers are called to be so much more than narrow technicians, implementing the great, mediocre, or ignoble designs of our particular clients.”

So she says. For yet another, see Anthony T. Kronman’s now 20-year old tribulation, Lost Lawyer: Failing Ideals of the Legal Profession.

But meantime, there’s this from a member of the California bar:

And a Happy Belated New Year.

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[1] For a different take on an ambulance-chasing lawyer, see Wallace T. Figg from John Grisham’s hilariously delightful novel, The Litigators.
[2] Decrying “selfish utilitarianism” and “materialism,” the good Rev. Palmer high-mindedly wrote, “It is filling the noble profession of the law with mendicant attorneys, prostituting the solemn priesthood of their office by opening the subterfuges of legal chicanery to villainy and fraud.” – Johnson, Thomas Cary, The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer, Presbyterian committee of publication, 1906

Photo Credits: Benjamin M. Palmer (1818-1902), Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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Having felt trapped more than once in a corporation or public utility’s fifth circle of customer service hell, I empathize with the public’s anger and frustration. Nothing elevates the blood pressure like getting placed in interminable telephone waiting queues or otherwise being forced to engage in futile debates with unresponsive call center drones when trying to fix a customer problem.

No wonder the epic customer service meltdown that circulated last year resonated with so many. Talk about a teachable but unlearned moment.

And also see Aaron Spain’s viral video, “Comcast put me on hold until they closed,” about his sitting on hold for 3 hours trying to cancel Comcast service last August.

So when I heard about a new web-based service purporting to “fight the faceless corporations causing your customer service nightmares,” I was intrigued — in spite of the website’s indelicate name, “Assholes On Demand.” Their motto is “Non sibi, sed suis” or “Not for oneself but for one’s own.” Of course, it could all be for laughs, too.

The “project” is headed by principals Erin Scottberg and Erik Martin who list a Manhattan area phone number on their website and offer the following somewhat ambiguous explanation about their deliverables:

“Assholes on Demand helps people get what they rightfully deserve. We’re caring and resourceful assholes* who will fight the faceless corporations causing your customer service nightmares. You’re not alone and you aren’t going crazy. 

“Assholes on Demand currently only accepts Pro Bono cases. We specialize in helping senior citizens, active duty military, and non-English speakers.

“If you or a loved one have no where else to turn, contact us maybe we can help. If you’re an asshole, volunteer with us and put your powers to good use. 

We’re like the X-Men, but for assholes!”

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, however, I salute the undertaking. Hopefully it does turn out to be altruistic and honest of intentions.

Last, I don’t know if the folks providing “Assholes on Demand” are lawyers. I doubt it, even if it sounds like this ought to be a lawyer’s bailiwick. It prompts, too, my of a salty old lawyer friend who analogously sasses his explanation when asked why people hire lawyers, he answers “Why send an amateur, when you can hire a professional asshole?”

And of course, it also prompts some Mel Brooks.

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Photo Credits: “Angry Crazy Man,” by Catherine Helzerman, chelzerman, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution and share alike distribution.

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https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/3/31/Toe_tag.jpgStarting in law school, continuing till the final hour’s billed, and doubtless, just before the toe tag’s attached, there’ll be a marketer trying to wrest a lawyer’s last discretionary death’s door dollar. This was true back when conventional wisdom held lawyers were dependably fertile targets thanks to all that money they supposedly made.

But even now after the economy’s shown lawyers aren’t recession-proof or that the glut of tuition-indebted law school graduates has consigned many to work for peanuts, the trolling’s only become worse.

There’s pay-per-click; online lawyer directories; SEO and social media; lead referrers and lawyer rating advertisers. And not to mention uber-expensive practice and case management software, electronic legal research tools, and court rule books by annual subscription. You’d think prudence if not parsimony would dictate careful cost-benefit analyses.

Paid praise.

So when a couple of weeks ago someone left a message asking me to call right back because I’d been “selected” for a “Who’s Who” Directory — let’s just say my hungry skepticism didn’t make me drop the guacamole on my chip to call. As a friend is fond of saying, “I may’ve been born at night — just not last night.”

In an era of selfies and self-promoting portly posteriors, who even knew such anachronisms still existed? Like phone directories and cockroaches, apparently who’s who will survive who cares at the Apocalypse.

And then last week, I was emailed with news I’d been selected for a top 100 list! Who can stand the ‘adulation’? But like ‘winning’ sweepstakes notices and attorney email collection appeals, they’re not unique.

Just last year, Matt Brown at Tempe Criminal Defense Blog took down similar “parasitical” marketing efforts meant to burnish ‘fragile’ lawyer egos — of course, for a price.

But as for those “Who’s Who” directories, they’re simply a form of vanity publication since one way or another, ‘honorees’ pay for the ‘honor.’ Most follow the same model, too, which is that inclusion is ‘free’ while the publishers overeagerly hustle expensive copies along with other overpriced distinctions of a dubious honorific.

When you’ve gotta pay for such faint praise in what one pundit calls, “The Hall of Lame,” then “Don’t feel too special if you’re invited to be in a “Who’s Who” directory” as blogger Sheryl Harris posted at “‘Who’s Who’ invite aims at your ego — and your wallet.”

Fortunately for me, however, about the same time I was being pestered for paid ‘triumphant achievement’ honors, I unexpectedly received something more valuable — a “VIP gift” from a Vietnamese Pho restaurant I frequent.

Pho VIP

The owner and her wait-staff appreciatively presented me with a flashlight pen imprinted with the restaurant’s admittedly homophonically-challenged business name, “Pho King Eggroll.” They said it was given “only to VIP customers.”

Just think, I’m a “Pho King” VIP and all it cost me were some bowls of noodle soup.

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Photo Credits: ”Toe Tag,” by Dep. Garcia at Wikipedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License; Vanity by A. T., 1890 (source: Wikipaintings), public domain; Children with paper crowns, by phlubdr at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license;Untitled, by The Integer Club at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license.

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A guy is driving around the back woods of Montana and he sees a sign in front of a broken down shanty-style house: “Talking Dog For Sale.” He rings the bell and the owner appears and tells him the dog is in the backyard.

The guy goes into the backyard and sees a nice looking Labrador Retriever sitting there.

“You talk?” he asks.

“Yep,” the Lab replies.

After the guy recovers from the shock of hearing a dog talk, he says “So, what’s your story?”

The Lab looks up and says, “Well, I discovered that I could talk when I was pretty young. I wanted to help the government, so . . . I told the CIA.

“In no time at all they had me jetting from country to country, sitting in rooms with spies and world leaders, because no one figured a dog would be eavesdropping.

“I was one of their most valuable spies for eight years running.

“But the jetting around really tired me out, and I knew I wasn’t getting any younger so I decided to settle down. I signed up for a job at the airport to do some undercover security, wandering near suspicious characters and listening in. I uncovered some incredible dealings and was awarded a batch of medals.

“I got married, had a mess of puppies, and now I’m just retired.”

The guy is amazed. He goes back in and asks the owner what he wants for the dog.

‘Ten dollars,” the guy says.

“Ten dollars? This dog is amazing! Why on earth are you selling him so cheap?

“Because he’s a Bullshitter.

He’s never been out of the yard.”

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Some thoughts about listening and lie-detection.

My brother emailed me the preceding talking dog joke last week. And while it may be well-traveled anonymous Internet humor, it prompted my post on something I’ve kicked around for a while — ‘Is it possible for a lawyer to develop a nose for Pinocchio prevarication a.k.a. a bullshit detector?’

Forgetting those bad jokes about lips-moving lawyers or the adage, it takes one to know one, the short answer is ‘yes’ — but only with good listening skills.

Years ago, a Hank Ketcham Dennis the Menace cartoon graced the wallboard next to my office coffee station. Dennis was in the foreground in the usual trouble as he explained his latest mischief. His peeved mother, arms crossed, stood to his left with his perplexed dad home from work on his right. The caption read, “Do you wanna hear my version, mom’s version or the truth?”

business,businessmen,crossed fingers,dishonesty,fingers crossed,gestures,lack of integrity,liars,males,men,metaphors,people,persons,telling lies

I kept that cartoon to remind me that as the poet observed, people sometimes “tell all the truth but tell it slant.” Listening effectively means understanding that gradations of truth occur in fact-gathering. So when evaluating a client representation, lawyers must cultivate a practiced ear and listen carefully to grasp the factual versus the fictitious — the nuanced truth versus the cunning adulteration.

It’s more art than science. As an essayist once noted, “each of us tells little lies to make it through the day, and an indistinct line divides fair from foul.”

So when a long-time lawyer and friend exaggeratedly quips, “All clients lie,” I know that, in spite of his hyperbole, he’s channeling Dennis the Menace. He means there’s more than one side to every story. This is especially true when a legal representation concerns intra-family conflicts, workplace controversies or business disputes.

To get to those ‘versions’ requires good listening. This is why legal writing professor Jennifer Romig is absolutely right when she says,“good listening makes good lawyering.” Fortunately, effective listening skills can be learned.

As for lie detection — not so much. Sure there are books, studies and articles claiming to help determine when someone is lying. I’m not sure I believe them. In my experience, finely-tuned bullshit detection comes mostly through hard-knock ‘fool me once’ life experience.

That said, last month lawyer Mark Wilson posted his “5 Ways to Tell When a Client Is Lying to You.” Momentarily putting aside what a lawyer must ethically do when a client plans to lie-to-acquittal or otherwise thinks perjury is play-doh pliable, Wilson focused instead on clients who 1) speak vaguely; 2) have dilated pupils; 3) use body language to physically distance; 4) make inconsistent statement; and 5) are verbose.

Save for spotting narrative inconsistencies, those may or may not be helpful cues to uncover a lie. Still it’s a popular exercise. Other psycho-pop theories, for example, suggest that too much or too little eye contact; nose touching; hand-waving; fidgeting and just general uneasiness are also sure-fire lie-catchers.

However, none of these so-called clues are infallible or fool-proof. They won’t, for instance, expose a tall tale wagging canine.

Like the yarn-spinning yard-bound Labrador, in my experience, the more creative people are the better liars.

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Photo Credits: IMG_33151 by Elisa at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License; Stylin’ by Marvin Kuo at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution; smiling labrador and yellow flowers, by nox-AM-ruit at Flickr Creative Commons via Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license;more faces, by Stephanie Sicore at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution; Alex 1 by Ted at Flickr via Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

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