April 2009 Archives

Rocky Mountain Lawyster


I passed the Colorado Bar Exam. To celebrate, here is a video of a headless Japanese guitarist playing Lucca's theme from Chrono Trigger:

Before I get into my latest allergy adventures, the Supreme Court handed down a significant ruling regarding FCC indecency regulation today, which I'll probably blog about later. The short version is: (1) The FCC's abrupt adoption of its fleeting expletives rule was kosher under Administrative Law principles; (2) the Supreme Court dodged the First Amendment issue; (3) Thomas isn't down with Red Lion and Pacifica, and (4) Stevens is (having authored Pacifica, after all).

Anyway. Four years ago I had an allergy test done in Walnut Creek and learned that I wasn't allergic to nuts, setting off what can only be described as an unbridled nut bonanza that continues to this day. Yesterday I had another allergist appointment here in Colorado, and was hoping that, just maybe, my peanut allergy had magically disappeared.

I didn't end up getting a scratch test yesterday, but I did learn a bunch of things about myself, my imminent future, and the great state of Colorado. And here they are:

- There are no dust mites in Colorado. The air is too dry. This is pretty awesome, since I am severely allergic to dust mites (or, more precisely, their poo).

- Telling your allergist that your cats sleep on your bed is like telling your dentist that you don't floss. The same degree of guilt on your end and head-shaking disapproval on theirs.

- When I told my allergist that I've been eating nuts for four years, she asked "Which nuts?", and I blew the perfect opportunity to bust out a Harlan Pepper impression - "Hazel nut. Cashew nut. Macadamia nut. Pistachio nut. Red pistachio nut. Natural, all natural white pistachio nut."

- My incessant throat-clearing, and possibly my asthma symptoms, are likely the result of vocal chord dysfunction, which has gone undiagnosed for thirty years. The treatment for this is speech therapy, which I don't know what to expect from. Though I have to say a trial lawyer in speech therapy seems a little incongruous. More reason to spend as much time behind the scenes as I can.

- In addition to the speech therapy, the allergist wants to give me a test that will confirm whether or not I have bona fide asthma. This test goes by the ominous names "bronchial provocation" and "methacholine challenge." The test sounds like something out of Jay Bybee's torture memos -- They lock you in a plexiglas box and pipe in a gas called methacholine. The sole function of this gas is to trigger asthma attacks in people who have asthma. If I don't react to the gas, I'm clean. If I do react to the gas, which is highly likely, presumably they give me some albuterol to open my lungs back up instead of just clapping their hands, saying "Well, there's that," and leaving the room.

- Oh, and after the methacholine inhalation, presumably while I'm still under its influence, they're going to stick a camera down my throat and take a gander at the old vocal chords to see if they're doing what they ought to do.

All this and I still can't eat no peanut M&Ms.

I'm Not Being Sarcastic...

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I just found out I need speech therapy, so to celebrate I bring you this Kids in the Hall Sketch, which is quite amusing.

Fun fact: Asthma symptoms can actually be caused by vocal chord dysfunction.

California Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, is introducing a bill that would "prohibit the use of a minor's image, name, voice, signature or likeness in an ad for a candidate or ballot measure without the consent of a parent or guardian for children under 12 and the child's consent for those 12 and older." Nava's bill is inspired by pro-Proposition 8 ads last year that used footage of school children attending their teacher's same-sex wedding ceremony at City Hall.

The ad in question, at least the video version, is this:

Of course, this isn't the most odious child-centered Prop 8 ad that surfaced last year. No, that distinction goes to this stomach-churning spot in which a bright-eyed school girl enthusiastically tells her mother how she learned in school that she can grow up and "marry a princess," playing on fears that legalizing same-sex marriage will empower left-wing public school teachers to turn our children gay:

(Also available en espaƱol ).

The key difference between the wedding spot and the princess spots, of course, is that the adorable actresses in the latter were willing participants in the commercials, while the images of the kids in the wedding ads were used without the consent of either the children or their parents. Only the hapless children from the wedding ads would fall under Nava's bill.

But there's more to it than that. The wedding footage was actually lifted from the San Francisco Chronicle's coverage of the event, i.e., information that's publicly available from a major newspaper. It's not like the Yes on 8 folks invaded a private ceremony with their digital cameras and camcorders and secretly gathered material for their campaign ads. And it's pretty hard to justify a law that would prevent something -- anything -- that appears in a newspaper from being used in a political ad.

And, frankly, because the ceremony in question took place on the steps of City Hall, in public view, the Prop 8 proponents should be able to use the images even if they had taken the pictures themselves. There's simply no violation of any right to privacy here, as Nava claims in submitting the bill.

Indeed, the bill as drafted seems to acknowledge this issue. In what I can only assume is a clause designed to preserve the bill against the inevitable First Amendment challenge, the bill provides for a civil penalty only "if a court finds that the privacy interests of the minor outweigh the speech interests of the person." But, given the fact that the unwitting poster children for the anti-same-sex marriage campaign have become the unwitting poster children for Nava's bill, either Nava considers the privacy right in an image plastered all over a newspaper to be superior to the free speech interest in robust political discourse, or Nava's bill is a solution in search of a problem. Either way, it's hard to see how this bill is a good idea.

Tacky political ads that exploit children and our desire to protect them have been around at least since Lyndon Johnson vaporized a girl picking flowers in 1964. And they work with varying degrees of success -- The "Daisy" ad helped Johnson clobber Goldwater, but Hillary Clinton's blatant ripoff fizzled against Obama. I can sympathize with Nava's interest in keeping unwilling kids out of political advertisements, but a bill that prohibits the use of publicly-available information in political speech isn't the right way to do it.

Since I spend in the neighborhood of 1.5-2 hours a day fighting traffic among the incompetent motorists of the Denver Metro Area, I've been listening to lectures from The Teaching Company, an outfit that sells college-level audio and video courses for snotty yuppies like myself seeking to enhance their abilities to impress people at cocktail parties. I made it through the very interesting History of Christian Theology and I'm now approaching the halfway point of How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, hoping to correct the dearth of proper music appreciation in my upbringing.

As with any course it's nice when you figure something out before the professor explains it to you. Such a thing happened to me when I tried to listen to Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 while working at work. Here's a little experiment for you. Play this video and, while listening to the music, try to do anything else.

If you're like me, you won't be able to concentrate at all after a few minutes, and the incessant onslaught of harpsichord notes will start to feel like needles poking you in the scalp.*

Now try it with Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Second Movement:

A little easier, yeah?

According to the professor, this illustrates a big difference between music from the Baroque and Classical Eras. Both pieces are extremely sophisticated and complex, but the Bach's complexity is right up in your face, and tends to soak up all of your available attention. Mozart's piece hides its complexity under the surface so the immediate experience of the music is more subtle and relaxing.

This is probably old news to most people but I thought it was interesting.

* Just to be clear, I love this piece by Bach, I just can't listen to it while trying to devote my brain to other activities. It's like trying to watch The Seventh Sign while doing housework.

P.S. As an added bonus, here's another piece from the course that I really like, with a connection to one of our own CH bloggers.

"No, I didn't get your email."

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