March 2005 Archives

Flaming Cupcakes of Shame


New strip. I'm sure the nice people at Friendster thought they were being helpful with their little birthday reminder cupcakes on the home page, but after discussing the issue with a number of people I think it's fair to say that any convenience is heavily outweighed by the shame of constantly being confronted with the birthdays of people you don't keep in touch with as much as you should. This is particularly true for Friendster whores like me who have 100+ friends in their lists, and are constantly lusting for more. There are good ways to lust after your friends and bad ways, but mostly bad ways.

So, to all my Friendster friends whose birthdays have gone by unnoticed by me, I apologize. I also apologize for not being more creative with the Photoshoppery in my comic strip-based apology. And Jason and Chang, if you'd like to sue me for infringing your right of publicity, let me know and I'll send you my address.

Happy Birthday, everybody.

P.S. I've been agonizing over this decision for weeks now, so I present it to you, my loyal fans. The question is this: Should I buy an iPod?

On the Move


The new goddamn U.S. News rankings are out. Boalt has regained some footing after last year's tumble from grace, edging up two points to number 11. So I got in to a Top 10 law school (on the second try, anyway), but I won't be graduating from one. Razzafrackin'...

Last year I got a lot of classmates giving me the business about how UCLA was going to pass Boalt in the rankings, thereby turning me into an enormous chump. The danger was indeed salient last year, when the gap tumbled from six (10-16) to three (13-16). Fortunately, UCLA advanced only one spot despite having a bad-ass faculty and a library that would make William Rehnquist giggle like a schoolchild. So the gap didn't narrow any further, and it got some of its bigness back (it's now 11-15). UCLA still has more hot girls, though. And I believe their graduate division isn't in the habit of giving out their students' social security numbers to petty thieves.

And I just realized that I'm wearing my UCLA Law shirt today. Fancy that.

Big Day

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the Grokster case today. This is a very important case because the future of civilized society depends on people being able to download music on the Internet for free.

The core legal issue seems to be whether things like Kazaa are entitled to the same legal protections as VCRs. The Court ruled in the 1980s that Sony couldn't be sued for copyright infringement simply because their devices were used to copy movies illegally. The copying itself was punishable, but the MPAA wanted to cut the individual violators off at the source (and also get themselves a dickload of money) by going after the VCR manufacturers. The Court refused to extend liability to manufacturers of devices used to violate copyright laws. Though defeated, the MPAA quickly adapted to the legally untouchable technology, and thus was born the video rental industry.

So, the Court could do a few things here. They could uphold the Ninth Circuit (which, like, never happens) and hold that Grokster is just like a VCR, and therefore the MPAA and RIAA have to continue going after college students and other ne'er-do-wells. They could come up with some wacky distinction between the two devices and impose liability on Grokster while preserving Sony. Finally, there's the doom scenario: the Court overrules Sony and grossly expands copyright liability. At that point every iPod in the country will simultaneously self-destruct and the Earth will fall into the sun.

I imagine this is one case where the Court clerks will be in total control of the outcome. Also encouraging is the fact that, while the entertainment industry has a complete stranglehold on Congress (mark my words - the copyright on Mickey Mouse will never expire), the Court seems more than willing to put them in their place. What I really think will happen is that the Court will produce an extremely factured set of opinions that will needlessly convolute U.S. copyright laws even further, and Boalt's IP professors will have a lot to write about for years to come.

Indecency Counterstrike


A friend just sent me this here article about the next battleground in the FCC's War on Indecency. It raises some interesting points, which will now be summarized for your enjoyment.

For a while I thought it would be fun to start a group called the Parents Parents Television Council Council, which would basically act as an antidote to the PTC - bombarding the FCC with counter-complaints whenever the PTC got their Mormon undies in a bunch about the latest uncensored portrayal of the genuine human experience. Well, someone has beaten me to it: meet SpeakSpeak News, a website dedicated to counter-balancing the PTC. According to the Washington Post, a recent episode of CSI generated 12,000 PTC complaints and 1,000 SpeakSpeak counter-complaints. Godspeed, my friends.

In addition, Some people in Congress are finally growing some balls and standing up for sensible entertainment regulation. Representative Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced a bill that would put the kaibash on Senator Ted Stevens' (R-Ak.) plan to extend the FCC's indecency regulation beyond the broadcast media (my take on that is available here). Note that Rep. Sanders is an Independent - the Democrats are still too afraid to stand up for freedom of speech in any meaningful way (the latest bill increasing indecency fines passed in the House 389 to 38). Which brings us to my next point.

Joe Lieberman is a complete wank. He cosponsored the Senate version of the House's bill to crank up indecency fines. I'm very glad he's not our Vice President.

Looking forward, I'm not sure how all this will pan out. Re. Sanders' bill will not go anywhere. It won't have the support among Democrats to make it out of committee, let alone to the floor. However, I think the FCC's broadcast indecency crusade is fading fast, due to Michael Powell's departure and an increasing awareness that the PTC is single-handedly responsible for creating the illusion of a nationwide indecency problem (Brent Bozell once claimed that PTC members paid Mr. Powell's paycheck, a fact that has come around to bite him and his group in their collective ass).

The movement to extend regulation beyond broadcast may have enough strength to pose a problem, however. The fact that it's coming from Congress rather than the FCC will allow its proponents to divorce it somewhat from the increasingly unpopoular indecency crusade of 2004 (Michael Powell, oddly enough, is against extending indecency regulation into cable and satellite). I suspect that mouthbreathing Republicans and spineless Democrats will push the increased regulation through, setting the stage for a reconsideration of indecency regulation by a Supreme Court with at least one or two Bush II appointees. Should be fun.



I was bombarded with graduation crap today, adding to my anxiety about the coming law-storm this Summer and Fall. Here are a few interesting items.

Boalt's graduation speaker will be Gavin Newsom, who's just as pretty as Jonny Moseley but slightly more accomplished. I was thinking former Solicitor General Ted Olson would have been a good speaker, since he has an outside chance of being the second Boalt alum to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But having the guy who successfully argued Bush v. Gore at any Berkeley graduation ceremony probably wouldn't go over very well. Newsom is a fine choice, all things considered, being that he was at the center of one of the nation's biggest legal hoo-hahs of the past year and probably puts on a good show. Newsom's liberal politicking will be balanced by Boalt Professor Angela Harris, whose conservative areas of interest include feminist legal theory and critical race theory. I'm very happy that most of my attending family will be Democrats.

Also, I get 12 tickets. 12 tickets! I think that's a little excessive. I suspect that it's based entirely on mathemagic -- there are like 300 graduates and the ceremony is held at the Greek Theater -- but I can't help but imagine that most grads are left with extra tickets, with each little unused piece of paper representing someone who doesn't love them. As for me, I have nine people who've told me they'll come, three of which are likely to crap out. So if anyone wants to see what Gavin Newsom could possibly talk about during his speech let me know and I'll talk you out of coming.

In related news, the Cal Student Store sent an envelope full of crap to my parents today, at my address. I'm still deciding whether I want the customized graduation pillow(!) or the crappy class ring. Maybe the class ring shoots lazor beams.

It'll be interesting to see if Berkeley Graduation #2 has any parallels to Berkeley Graduation #1 back in 2001. If my B.A. experience is any indication, I can expect the following things on May 14th:

-My gown will be wrinkly and too big.
-Members of my family will refuse to sit with each other and half of them will bolt (from Boalt!) as soon as the ceremony is over.
-I won't drink nearly enough (not likely - this time I'll be packing a hip flask).
-I'll wind up at a keg party in a converted barn, meet a girl having trouble with the keg, and offer unsolicited legal advice related to her keg troubles, whereupon the girl will look at me and say, "Wow, are you a lawyer?"
-I'll tell the story about the keg girl to everyone I meet for the next four years.

Here's hoping.

My First Animated Gif

Everyone who's tired of spending their Spring Break outlining for Antitrust please so signify by saying "BORK! BORK! BORK!".

Reese Witherspoon Is Not Attractive


The overwhelming effluvia of promotions about the fact that Legally Blonde is being shown like nine times a week for two months on TBS has compelled me at last to take my message to the People. A great deal of humanity, including many of those in charge of the entertainment industry, appear to be laboring under the delusion that Reese Witherspoon belongs anywhere near a movie screen or television set, let alone actually on/in one. And so, in the tradition of my Claritin Guide, I've prepared the following instructional diagram that will help you, the People, break free of this mind infection.

You're welcome.

If you're like me, you live in an apartment full of things that make your head fill with snot on a daily basis, that make your eyes water like you're in the front row at an onion chopping contest, and that generally make you want to drill a hole in your face to relieve the constant throbbing pressure from your sinuses. Also, if you're like me, you're exceptionally stupid, and repeatedly pay a great deal of money for completely ineffective allergy drugs like Claritin. Perhaps, being as you are like me, you've become frustrated at the needless level of complexity involved in purchasing Claritin. This complexity stems from the facts that (1) Claritin comes in like seven hundred different permutations and (2) every permutation of Claritin has almost the exact same packaging.

Before we move on to the instructions for purchasing Claritin, let's review how sensible manufacturers package their products. Assume, if you will, that we have a company that makes and sells cookies. Unlike the makers of Claritin, who sell their products in quantities of every multiple of 5 between 5 and 100, our hypothetical cookie company sells their products in only three sizes. In order to assist the purchaser in choosing the right size, our cookie company would likely package each size in noticeably different-sized packages, like so:

In addition, if our cookie company were to sell two different varieties of cookies (unlike Claritin, which comes in at least forty varieties), they might assist the purchaser in identifying their desired variety by significant differences in packaging appearance, like so:

The makers of Claritin do neither of these things. Accordingly, when you buy Claritin, you need to consciously ask yourself each of the questions in this diagram, and read the entire box carefully to find the answers:

I will now address the importance of each question in turn.

(1) How the fuck long does it last?
Claritin comes in a 12-hour variety as well as a 24-hour variety. Since both varieties actually provide zero hours of relief, this consideration is only important if you like taking pills twice a day instead of once.

(2) What does it claim to treat?
Claritin comes in an allergy-only variety as well as an allergy/decongestant variety. While the allergy-only variety only fails to treat allergies, the allergy/decongestant version fails to treat both allergies and congestion. You should buy the allergy/decongestant kind because it will encourage the makers of Sudafed to bring an antitrust action against the makers of Claritin.

(3) What kind of goddamn pills?
You can either get Claritin in needlessly enormous pills that are really hard to swallow, or "readitabs" that slightly dissolve in your mouth and leave a chalky, vaguely minty residue all over your tongue. Pick whichever one sounds less terrible to you.

(4) How the fuck many pills are there?
As mentioned above, you can get Claritin in basically any multiple of five. Because Claritin takes seven days to do anything at all and loses all effectiveness immediately if you miss a single dose, you should buy as many pills at a time as possible. Oddly enough, every quantity of Claritin costs exactly thirty dollars.

In conclusion, I hate Claritin, and every time I swallow my ears pop.

3L Blues - Part Four



Things are taking a turn for the surreal and self-indulgent in the realm of 3L malaise. The more a look at this strip the less sense it makes and the more funny it seems. Because I like things that make no sense. Which is why I'm becoming a lawyer.

Quite a bit of research went into this week's offering. First I had to scour the Internet to make sure I knew what the psychic knife actually looks like. In the process I found that searching for pictures of Psylocke online in a campus computer lab is extraordinarily embarrassing, Psylocke being one of the most masturbatory characters in the Marvel universe. The fan art is, shall we say, exceptionally disturbing. But that's what happens when you have a character who's a fashion model, a ninja, hates wearing clothes, almost always spreads her legs when she kicks fools, and is vaguely Asian.

I also brought in an outside dialogue coach to make sure the Ghost's verbal response to his undoing was accurate. Special thanks to Zack in that regard. Zack also explained to me what the psychic knife actually does ("sort of like getting kicked in the nuts," he says), and while it isn't fatal when applied to the living I figured it could destroy a Ghost. Because that makes no sense.

Finally, I've realized that I've drawn a lot of strips where the humor is based on a random act of violence in the second frame. The weapon of choice varies from one strip to the next: large fist, two small fists, rope, baseball bat, single, medium-sized fist, golf club, water cooler bottle, and human body have all been used with varying degrees of effectiveness. In addition, I'm pretty sure they were all subconsciously inspired by this Penny Arcade strip, so not only am I repetitive, I'm also a hack.

3L Blues - Part Three


New strip, with more focused kvetching. We're nearing the end. Sort of. The last frame has already been described as "not funny" by one critic, so I invite you to draw your own conclusions.

While we're on the subject of meaningless endeavors, let me just say this: The Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper commercial where the woman is on the date is the greatest commercial ever conceived by man or beast. It's a commercial that's so great I didn't know what the product was for a while, until some persistent Internet sleuthing revealed it to be something that I will never ever consume in my life. I've always hated Dr. Pepper, because it tastes like ass, and adding artificial vanilla, cherry, and dietness is just more ass on the pile. Still, the commercial is solid gold.

In case you don't know what I'm talking about, you can view the commercial here by clicking on the "Media Gallery" link and then the TV icon on the left. The extremely (and characteristically) creepy Muppet source material can be downloaded here. It's a 1.8 MB file, so be warned.

I also managed to download the two-minute Return of the Sith trailer that was shown during this weeks OC, and is supposed to be available only to paying subscribers to But I'm not posting that since it's like 35 MB. Let's just say that it has a lot of cool shit in it.

3L Blues


At some point I'll get back to weekly stripping, thereby obviating the need for strips to share blog entries. But for now, there are two new strips posted - parts one and two of what will ultimately be a four- or five-part story. I'll save more comprehensive explanatory blogging for when the story is complete and my philosophical kvetchings about my impending doom will have more context.

There may also be a stand-alone version of Part Two in the works, identical to the original in every respect except for Claudio's dialogue bubble. The main reason I'd do this is to provide something for Boalt Briefs, which hasn't published in like a hundred years at this point but is nonetheless about to be written up in one of the numerous daily legal newspapers that no one ever reads.

In the meantime, I'll be enjoying my donuts and coffee in miserable peace. Later on, bitches.

Outgoing FCC Chairman Michael Powell recently came out against extending indecency regulation to cable and satellite, as one mouthbreathing Senator has pushed the issue into public debate. And since I'm about to have a paper published in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal on this very topic, I thought I'd provide a preview in blog form.

First, a few basic things. Speech that can be described as indecent but not obscene is protected by the First Amendment (obscenity enjoys no protection, and can be regulated or banned to any legislature's desire). However, in a line of particularly crappy Supreme Court decisions, the Court has held that broadcast media are entitled to reduced First Amendment protection (compared with, at the time, print media, but a later non-crappy decision held that cable television is entitled to full protection -- more on that below). The starting point for reduced protection for broadcasters was the Red Lion case, which put forth the idea that broadcast frequencies are scarce, government-owned resource, that could be licensed by the government in furtherance of the public good. Since the government is in control of the resources they can exercise some degree of control over what kind of material their licensees (the broadcasters themselves) can air.

A later decision, FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, crystallized the application of Red Lion in the indecency context. Because broadcaster media are (1) uniquely pervasive in the lives of Americans amd (2) uniquely accessible to children, Congress may regulate indecent material -- which is protected by the First Amendment -- on broadcast television and radio. This gives lunatic FCC Commissioners the power to pursue the sorts of reigns of terror that we've been experience for the past year or so.

Because Red Lion was based on the unique technological characteristics of broadcast, the Court declined to extend its holding to cable in TBS v. FCC, which came down in 1994. So what we have is a two-tiered system of indecency regulation -- full regulation for broadcasters, and no regulation for cable/satellite -- based on the differences between the two forms of media. We're getting to the point where, at least on television, broadcast and cable are indistinguishable. The alphabet stations are subject to indecency regulation while Comedy Central, MTV, TBS, Sci Fi, and Nickelodeon for that matter can pretty much air whatever they want.

Oddly enough, this anarchy in the cable industry has not created the sewer of sex and violence that hand-wringers in Congress seem to fear if we become more lenient with broadcasters. Basic cable channels can air indecent material 24 hours a day, but they don't, even without government regulation.

In the meantime, forces are aligning to bring down this dichotomy. On one side is Viacom, who is challenging the FCC fines associated with last year's boobilicious Super Bowl broadcast. Judging from the brief they filed with the FCC, they seem prepared to take this thing all the way to the Supreme Court and bring down the entire system of indecency regulation. On the other side are dingleberries like Senator Stevens and L. Brent Bozel III, who don't want anyone to watch anything that they don't like.

So one of three things will happen. The current system could remain in place and become increasingly indefensible as the line between cable/satellite and broadcast television and satellite and broadcast radio continues to blur. Pacifica could be overturned, stripping Congress and the FCC of any power to regulate indecency anywhere at all. Finally, and most frighteningly, TBS could be overturned, allowing Red State Churchies to get Sponge Bob off Nickelodeon so he doesn't turn their children into gays.

It's tough to say based on TBS what the Supreme Court will do with this issue, if the issue ever gets to them. To begin with, TBS was about must-carry provisions, not indecency. Secondly, it's one of those opinions that various Justices joined various parts of, with concurring opinions left and right, making binding precedent hard to find. In addition, by the time the issue gets that far we'll likely have one or two new Justices, so that complicates things as well.

In addition to the legal issues, the market shifts in each media add an interesting dynamic. Congress' sudden interest in regulating indecency on satellite and cable is likely tied to Howard Stern's upcoming jump from broadcast to satellite radio. Many are predicting that this is the boost that the burgeoning satellite radio industry needs to begin its ascent to the level of what cable TV has become. The FCC's aggressive anti-indeceny agenda has driven Stern off the air but may ultimately produce more indecent radio as controversial personalities jump to the no-holds-barred satellite arena. If, indeed, satellite radio is as successful as cable TV, the underlying rationales for broadcast indecency regulation will continue to fade in relevance. Even if they stay in place as a technical legal matter, their unlikely to have any substantial effects on the entertainment industry going forward.

Anyway, the paper I have coming out gets more deeply into this stuff, and also has lesbian dryhumping. I'll post a link as soon as I'm able.

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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