May 2009 Archives

In case you haven't heard, President Obama has nominated Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court. This has, of course, been somewhat overshadowed, at least in the circles I run with, by the California Supreme Court's tragic decision this morning upholding Proposition 8 (I say "tragic" because I believe the decision is legally correct only because California's laws related to constitutional amendments are horrible, as is the California constitution itself).

One interesting aspect of the Sotomayor nomination is that her inevitable confirmation will result in the Supreme Court being a solid two-thirds Catholic. The current "Catholic Block" is coterminous with the "Conservative Block," though it includes perennial wildcard Anthony Kennedy. The four more reliable conservatives -- Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito -- are all Catholics. Breyer and Ginsburg are Jews and Stevens is the sole representative of America's oppressed Protestant minority.

The Catholicism of the conservative Justices is most often discussed in relation to their abortion jurisprudence, as the Catholic church is, of course, not a big fan of abortion (it's not a big fan of the death penalty, either, but let's ignore that inconvenient fact for the time being). After the Court upheld a ban on so-called partial-birth abortion in Gonzales v. Carhart back in 2007, for example, this marginally offensive cartoon showed up in the syndicates:

The cartoon suggests rather explicitly, and probably unfairly, that the five Catholic Justices let their religious beliefs dictate their votes in the abortion case. In response to this cartoon and some other grumblings about religious beliefs influencing judicial votes, this slobbering editorial by John Yoo graced the pages of the Wall Street Journal, inartfully attempting to call out those of the "know-nothing left" who blamed the Justices' faith for their stance in the Carhart case. (I should add that, from what I hear, John Yoo is a pretty good professor, but setting aside the whole torture thing his editorials read like something out of a high school newspaper.)

The point is, it looks like we're going to be getting a solid librul Catholic on the Court, so it should be interesting to see the reactions to her anticipated votes on abortion cases and, for that matter, death penalty cases. I expect we'll get a lot of howling from conservative Catholics if Sotomayor votes in favor of abortion rights, just as Catholic Democratic politicians have been slammed, and even denied their place at the Lord's Table, for being pro-choice. These complaints will sound all the more shrill in view of the relative lack of controversy over the conservative Justices' consistent, unflagging, and in some cases all-to-enthusiastic support of the death penalty. The easy response to this is to fall back on a conservative legal philosophy -- i.e., that the death penalty is specifically mentioned in in the Constitution while abortion rights were dreamed up by the Court in Roe v. Wade, but in that regard Catholic critics are on no firmer (or weaker) ground than anyone else, and religion shouldn't come into it at all.

For the time being, of course, critics are more worried that Sotomayor's womanity and Puerto Ricanness will force her to vote in favor of underrepresented minorities, but the cognitive dissonance among Sotomayor's likely Catholic opponents regarding the abortion/death penalty issue should be interesting to observe.

I'd also like to point out that for all the talk of an 8:1 gender ratio failing to reflect the makeup of American society, which I generally agree with, nobody seems to be losing sleep over making sure America's religious communities are proportionally represented on the bench. Apparently identity politics has its limits.

Ghostbusters III

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Word on the street is that Ghostbusters III is set to begin filming with the original cast. Here are the taglines that the studio is batting around for the poster:

1. "Everyone's fat! Even Dana!"
2. "Because Venkman's career as a serious actor didn't take off after Lost In Translation like he thought it would."
3. "What giant walking thing will they come up with this time?"
4. "100% CGI!"
5. "Vigo's back... this time with an even stupider plot."
6. "Gozer is also back... For some reason."
7. "Twice as funny as Year One. We promise."
8. "Hopefully you forgot all about the second one."
9. "Guaranteed cameos by Slimer and the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, because nobody seems to realize that Sta-Puft was just an incarnation of Gozer and not an independent entity."
10. "Bitch all you want, you know you're going to see it."

Me: I guess in the new Star Trek movie they avoid canon problems by having the bad guy travel back in time and create a parallel reality.
Her: What?
Me: Eric Bana plays a Romulan who's pissed off because his planet got destroyed or something, so he travels back in time to destroy the Federation. So they don't have to worry about screwing up the original storyline.
Her: I don't understand how that avoids screwing up the storyline.
Me: [Holding up right hand hand.] Okay, here's the original Star Trek storyline. The Romulan travels back in time [indicating travel from the tip of the middle finger to the base of the palm] and starts a new parallel reality here [holding up left hand so the hands touch at the base of the plams and make a "V"]. You know, your eye muscles are going to get worn out if you keep rolling your eyes like that.
Her: Maybe you can travel back in time to when I was twelve and create a parallel reality where I don't roll my eyes.

Me: My blog is the first non-YouTube result when you Google Suzanne Mikawa.
Her: Who?
Me: The girl from Bill Nye the Science Guy. Remember we saw her at that restaurant and I blogged about it?
Her: What do you do at work?

Me: I made a pretty clever Menudo reference at work today.
Her: This is what our marriage as become?

On Remixing


People often ask me what my motivation is when I remix a song. What is it that drives me to take a complete piece of music by another artist and transform it into something that is at once recognizable as the original and yet different enough to qualify as a separate work? Am I trying to add my own flavor to the original song? To make ot my own? Am I, indeed, attempting to improve it? Take a sad song and make it better, as it were?

No, surely not. I would never presume to do any of these things. For in remixing, as in any derivative artform, respect for the source material is critical. I do not take someone else's song and make it my own. No, I take someone else's song and make it even more that other person's. In remixing my only goal is to distill the original work down to its true intellectual vitality, to strip away the clutter imposed by the so-called "standards" of marketability and get at what the artist was really trying to say. My humble endeavors can only hope to explore the unfiltered cerebral depths of the original creator and present the artist's original message and raw talents.

And with that in mind I bring you my trifling treatment of Beyonce's "Single Ladies."

(Incidentally this was looping through my head for most of the Colorado Bar Exam.)

As I've mentioned before, I'm taking an audio course on music to enhance my cultural capital. The cultural capitalism has been slow-going, though I have been able to recognize certain pieces of music on the classical cable television station we keep on during the day to ensmarten our son.

Most recently, my powers of musical observations revealed themselves in a most unlikely context. Last night I was poking around, an online NES emulator, and for reasons which I will never fully understand I decided to play an unreleased game from 1993 called The Adventures of Dr. Franken. The game itself is incoherent and abysmal -- Near as I can tell you play Frankenstein's monster in striped pajamas, wandering around a mansion in search of prominently marked "Exits" while shooting what I can only assume is lightning at various monsters.

But, the music played during the title screens is one of Bach's fugues from The Well-Tempered Klavier, which was covered extensively in my music course. And I was able to recognize the horribly synthesized eight-bit four-track version despite the missing voices.

Somehow I don't think that's going to score a lot of points at parties, but I'm getting there.

Justice David H. Souter has announced his retirement, a development that has made Google Reader unbearable today. The other eight Justices issued statements about Souter's announcement. Here's what they said, followed by what they meant.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.:

"Justice Souter has served with great distinction on the Court for nearly 20 years. His desire to return to his native New Hampshire is understandable, but he will be greatly missed in our deliberations."

Translation: "Whatever."

Associate Justice John Paul Stevens:

As Justice Blackmun accurately stated when Justice White advised us of his proposed retirement from the Court, an announcement of this kind "is an emotional occasion." Because Justice Souter is such a good friend, my first reaction to his decision is one of real personal loss. Because I am confident that I know how his professional work will be judged by future historians, my more important reaction is that the Court will suffer a far greater loss than many now realize. I wish he had postponed the decision that he has just announced.

Translation: "I've seen more retirements than the banquet hall at a seafood restaurant."

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia:

David and I have served on this bench together for almost 20 years -- sitting next to each other at argument for all of that time. I will miss his always intelligent contribution to our work, but most of all I will miss his companionship. The only consolation is that I am sure he will be happy back in his cold and beloved New Hampshire.

Translation: "I'll miss kicking Dave in the shins under the table during oral argument. Also, Dave is an idiot because he likes cold weather."

Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy:

The two months remaining in this term now become all the more precious to us, for we know our splendid colleague Justice David H. Souter will soon leave here for the home and the State to which he longs to return. In our free moments David was one of the best raconteurs, one of the most adept and amusing storytellers, I have ever encountered. In our conferences and deliberations all of us knew we had the guidance of a powerful intellect and a fine, dedicated jurist. The Nation should be grateful always for his integrity and absolute probity, and for his lasting contributions to our law and to the dignity of this Court.

Translation: "I know what 'raconteur' means, but I assume you don't so I'm also calling David a good 'storyteller,' which is what 'raconteur' means. I'm smarter than you are and that's why I, and I alone, get to decide all the hard cases. Say goodbye to the Voting Rights Act."

Associate Justice Clarence Thomas:

I have been privileged to serve on the Court with Justice Souter for almost two decades. It is an honor to have been one of his colleagues at the Court. Though deeply saddened by the departure of a friend and colleague, I am comforted by the knowledge that the bonds of friendship that have been formed during our toils here shall happily remain firm. Virginia and I wish him much happiness and contentment.

Translation: "My wife wrote this."

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

Among jurists with whom I have served, Justice David H. Souter is the very best. His level of preparation for the cases we consider is astonishing. He works so hard at getting it right. He is a genuinely caring man and a model of civility. Never have I heard him utter a harsh or unkind word. I count it my great good fortune to have known him as a working colleague and dear friend.

Translation: "Yeah, that's right. David is better than Sandy. You heard me. But I'm still excited about getting another girl Justice."

Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer:

As a member of this court, Justice Souter has given nineteen years of inspirational service to the Nation. David is a close colleague and a warm personal friend. I shall miss him here. So will we all.

Translation: "It would take me five minutes to tell you where the men's room is. The fact that I summed up my thoughts about Justice Souter in two lines should speak volumes, in a figurative sense, about how I feel about him."

Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito:

I was sad to hear of David Souter's decision to retire from the Court. From my first day on the Court, he has been a wonderful colleague. He has dedicated so many years to exemplary judicial service. We will miss him deeply.

Translation: "I haven't said five words to Justice Souter since I got here and probably couldn't pick him out of a lineup."

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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