The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance

by Kevin Underhill

Cover image

Publisher: American Bar Association
Copyright: 2013
ISBN: 1-62722-269-3
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 334

Buy at Powell's Books

First, if you have not read Lowering the Bar, you should do so. There aren't many blogs where I will start reading, end up reading numerous posts out loud to anyone in the vicinity, and then find myself systematically reading the entire backlog (which, in this case, is substantial). Kevin Underhill is a lawyer with civil libertarian leanings, a wicked sense of humor, and a knack for finding the most absurd legal stories. He varies between weary incredulity and caustic sarcasm, almost always manages to make me smile, and often makes me laugh out loud.

The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance, and Other Real Laws that Human Beings Have Actually Dreamed Up, Enacted, and Sometimes Even Enforced is, as one might expect, more of the same sort of thing that one gets from Lowering the Bar. However, unlike a lot of books released by long-standing bloggers, it is not a collection of previously published material. This is an entirely new collection of legal absurdities, drawing on history, US federal, state, and local law, and some non-US laws, and complete with Underhill's trademark commentary.

Long-time readers of Lowering the Bar have seen several posts about this sort of thing before, which also means there's a great sample up on the web. See posts tagged "Law (Dumb)" for a preview of the sort of thing you'll get, although as mentioned the material in the book is original. My one complaint about the book version of this post type is that I think the blog posts tend to be longer and contain a bit more analysis. Underhill gets in about one punch line per law in the book, and I frequently wished for a somewhat longer analysis. The blog posts tend to get funnier and more biting once he works up a head of steam on a topic.

The book is, alas, a bit uniform in its style. It's composed of a large number of "chapters," each of which is usually a page or two and covers a single law. Those are divided into ancient, pre-modern, US federal, US state, US city, and non-US laws, but with considerably funnier section headings than those. Each chapter has a title that's usually a brief summary of the law (often funny), an introduction, a quote (or several), and a punch line. There's not much variation, which makes it good bathroom reading — you can pick it up anywhere, read a few pages, and put it back down without fear of losing context — but lacks variety when read in large gulps.

I find Lowering the Bar itself funnier than this book. I think that's because the blog posts are longer, more varied, and mix weird laws with caustic political commentary and entertaining stories of the extremely ill-advised things people do around, within, and against the law. The odd laws are entertaining; the stories of defendants, the accounts of weird legal proceedings, and Underhill's exasperated sarcasm about legal and political stupidities are even funnier.

If you had to choose between the book and the blog, I'd go with the blog.

That said, you don't have to choose, and if you've been reading the blog for a while, more material is always welcome. A book also has the substantial advantage of being a way to throw some money at a blogger as a reward for hours of entertainment, with a bonus of getting an enjoyable physical object in return. I certainly don't regret the purchase, and I've already had an opportunity to mention Millard Fillmore's State of the Union address on guano. I'm not sure if that means the book made me smarter, but I do believe it made me more entertaining.

TL,DR version: Read Lowering the Bar. If you like that, there's this book. I think you can figure out the rest from there.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2014-06-27

Last modified and spun 2017-10-29