|log (2003/06/27 to 2003/07/03)|
Wednesday, July 2, 2003
It occurs to me that I should mention that I'm going to be without known-reliable connectivity for a few days yet again, so y'all shouldn't worry if I don't post for awhile (I know how y'all worry).
I was going through some old piles and slips of paper in my office today (one of my favorite things to do when things get really busy and I have no time to waste), and I found one that said (in my handwriting)
Civilization as Performance Art
On another I had written:
So should I sleep with your wife? Or what?
I vaguely recall that I was planning to write a Visitor's Guide and Handy Phrasebook for Visitors to the United States. This was back before I had a weblog, more's the pity.
Another piece of paper said:
At various times I've looked for something symbolic to play with on paper during meetings like this. Nothing beats language, though! Talk about a bunch of complexly interacting funny symbols...
That was also a long time ago, back before we all had laptops, and one still brought pieces of paper to meetings.
Back then I also kept endless Things To Do lists on pieces of paper; lots and lots and lots of them, and some of the Things To Do were always "Consolidate Things To Do Lists" and "Work on Mess".
Funny, I don't actually remember when I stopped making those paper lists. They're still part of my self-image, but I don't make them anymore.
A reader writes:
<< Next: is the iTunes visualizer k-rad, or what? >>
Cool! So I should have said "is the current generation of digital music visualizers, as embodied in the iTunes 4 visualizer and Geiss and Milkdrop and G-Force k-rad, or what?".
In any of these, do the larger-scale display strategies (the numbers and kinds of "particles" and "fields" and so on) respond to the characteristics of the music, or is it just the little strings and loops and lines that act like oscilloscope traces?
(I know, I should just try those listed above; but Media Player frightens me.)
From the mysterious "HTML o' the Day", a good (if long) and (mostly) non-ironic piece about irony from the Guardian.
I remember a long time ago, at a PC User Group meeting (that's a pretty quaint concept itself nowadays, like a Clock Radio User Group meeting), someone was showing off this clever system they had that would convert sound into bits and store it on the hard drive. The problem was that just a minute or so of sound would take up as much as a megabyte of disk space, which meant that it wasn't really practical, since ten minutes would fill up your whole hard disk.
I just did a couple of quick envelopic calculations, and they suggest that the iPod that I'm going to have in a few weeks, a little thing that fits into the shirt pocket, has enough capacity to hold about three weeks of continuous music.
Which can't possibly be right, but that's how the numbers came out.
Tonight I followed a trail from Rebecca to an SF review on a chess site (via a link I probably only bothered with because it had my last name in it), and thence to Amazon to order a couple of Dan Simmons books (not that I should be ordering more books, ho ho, but the ability to buy used SF on Amazon is horribly irresistable), and also to Google to find that "All You Zombies" (a story I want to reread, and the one bootleg copy I spotted on the web seemed to be missing a few words out of every third sentence or so) appeared in a collection called "The Fantasies of Robert A. Heinlein", and thence upstairs to the (hot stuffy) library where I found that the only Heinleins shelved in the shelved part of the SF collection were "Double Star" and "Sixth Column", so next to the boxes (the box you want is always at the very bottom), moving around quietly so as not to wake the little boy sleeping in the room below, and finding in the box not only a second copy of "Double Star" and a second copy of "Sixth Column" (this one under the name "The Day After Tomorrow") but also "6xH", originally published as "The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag", and also containing the story "All You Zombies".
(You know you're successful when your bibliography diagram is more complicated than the family tree of European royalty.)
While searching through the Heinlein section of the box I also came across (a zillion other Heinlein books, including) "Assignment in Eternity" (containing the short novels "Gulf" and "Lost Legacy", which were also published separately, and a couple of short stories; see the very useful RAH bibliography off in the UK somewheres), and I brought that downstairs to read also.
So I'm not really available for weblogging right now. Sorry!
So on Friday I'm cleaning out this big mess of papers in my office and come across a couple of graphpaper doodles that I like, and I take them home to scan, and it occurs to me (but only after I've posted Friday's weblog entry) that they'd make a really good nonverbal weblog entry, so I post them early Saturday morning, and feel a guilty sense of pleasure that now I don't have to think of anything to post in the log for a couple or three days.
And naturally a zillions things appear in the next day or two that I really want to post in the log.
Let's see. I ordered an iPod! I went with "Harmful or fatal if swallowed". The cassette-player adapter (for the car) has already shipped; the iPod itself is predicted to ship in like two weeks (how can I wait??).
I've got a few paragraphs written up about what's wrong with Scalia's dissent in Lawrence, but I don't think I'll post them today; in my current mood the important thing is that kinky sex is now protected by the Constitution, and who cares what grumpy old Tony thinks about it, anyway?
There was a package from Amazon in the mail for me, and I thought "that's funny, did I order anything?", and inside was the Köln Concert that I mentioned the other day, and I thought "that's funny, I didn't think I'd actually ordered that", and looking at the shipping notice it turns out that I didn't, but that it had been ordered for me by one of my admirable readers.
Isn't that cool?
(Maybe I should become a camgirl.) I would not, of course, suggest that anyone else go to my wishlist and buy me anyhing. Unless you're feeling really generous. I probably shouldn't link to my wishlist at all, in fact, so that no one gets the wrong idea.
An age (and an age) ago (in a kingdom by the sea) I bought a copy of Pleasantville (on that oldfashioned videotape) in the bargain bin at some video store, and finally today I watched it. It was great! Well, at least it was far beyond the puffy silliness I was expecting from the premise and what I'd vaguely heard about it. Lots of things made me laugh, the metaphors came in nicely-shaped layers, and so on. The last third avoided the really hard problems (when you bring life to something, you generally also bring, well...), and in that sense it could have been a much deeper movie, but anything can be better. This was surprisingly good.
Next: is the iTunes visualizer k-rad, or what? I have, in my life, written a number of programs that produce display images that are supposed to be pleasing and unpredictable (one appeared in the Paris City Museum of Modern Art once, he said modestly), and also a number of programs that compose music that's supposed to have similar qualities. I have a recurring dream that I've finally written the Ultimate such program, and it not only produces amazing unpredictable creative mind-blowing images, but also composes the perfect music to go with them. Fortunately Apple hasn't quite done either of those (so my life's ambitions are not crushed), but they've come closer to the video part than anything else I've seen. Where are my wrap-around display goggles?
"We intend for this new wave of bitter stupid legislation to not only clog up the courts even further, but to punish music fans and induce more angry teens to develop file-sharing technology that will far, far outpace our ability to whiningly police it like the snide little litigious jerknoses we so deeply are," RIAA president Cary Sherman did not sneer, before being slapped by a gaggle of much, much more hipper than him teenagers who happened to be strolling by. "Hey you punk kids stay outta my yard!" he did not squeal.
And I thought I was the only person who used the word "jerknose". (Not quite.)
Spam subject line o' the day: "ob What went wrvng with my erkctmvn?" What, indeed?
And I think I'll stop now, although there are still words waiting to be written (not that there aren't always words waiting to be written).
So reading the Scalia dissent in Lawrence v. Texas is like reading a good scathing review of a really good film. You don't agree with what the reviewer says, but you have to admire the erudition and the wittily savage diction. It's also good mental exercise to figure out just where the mistakes are.
On the other hand, he does foam at the mouth now and then. This bit is noteworthy:
State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today's decision...
On the whole my reaction is of course "right on!". But on closer inspection it's kinda strange that Scalia apparently thinks that these are all things that states should be able to outlaw, and that will be hard to outlaw after Lawrence, and that there's no way to tell them from it (since they're all just about "moral choices" of the same kind).
Let's look at each sin in detail:
Bigamy: To the extent that bigamy is breach of contract, promising to marry just one person and then marrying someone else, it's easily distinguishable from the conduct found to be protected in Bowers. On the other hand fully consensual bigamy doesn't strike me as a problem; if three or more people want to get married in some configuration, why not? I wouldn't object to those laws being struck down, myself.
Same-sex marriage: This needs more than a paragraph of commentary. *8) I'm all in favor of same-sex marriage, and I agree with Scalia that Lawrence seems to give it a significant boost. The mystery is why Scalia (here, and even more elsewhere in the dissent) pounds on that point so strongly; presumably he's not trying to Hasten the Day. Is he just trying to make O'Connor and maybe Sutor feel bad? That'd be sort of petty. My paranoid guess is that it's a rallying call for the "One man one woman" Constitutional amendment movement; shudder.
Adult incest: I've got no particular problem with that practice, either. In general closely related people don't want to have sex ("eeeeeeww!"), but if they do, what's the point of locking them up for it? Those laws can go, too, for all of me. Only for consensual relations, of course; nonconsensual sex is right out, first cousins or not.
Prostitution: I think laws against prostitution are silly and destructive, and make the lives of sex-workers worse than they would be otherwise. But prostitution is commerce, and Constitutional law has always given government wider powers to regulate commerce than to regulate private non-commercial behavior; so in fact I doubt that Lawrence actually calls anti-prostitution laws into question anyway. (I also imagine that Scalia knows that very well, and just wanted to make his list longer.)
Masturbation: Masturbation????? There are state laws against masturbation???? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Scalia is just parodying himself here; does anyone actually think that the government should, or should be allowed to, prohibit wanking off? Jeez, what planet are these people from??
Adultery: See above under "Bigamy". If it's breach of contract, it's not touched by Lawrence. To the extent that it's not breach of contract, it's in the realm of private culture or religion (your priest can condemn you from the pulpit and your uncle disinherit you), not government.
Fornication: A lovely old word with lots of different meanings, from "sex" to "a kind of sex the state doesn't like" to "sex between unmarried persons". I have, as is obvious by now, no problem with striking down laws against any kind of consensual sex (modulo breach of contract etc).
Bestiality: Odd that Scalia can't distinguish a man having sex with another man from a man having sex with a dog! Lawrence only applies to consensual sex, and presumably animals can't give consent, so there's no problem there; again I think he's just filling out his list.
Obscenity: Regular readers of this log may remember when we were reading and writing about this subject awhile back. I think laws against obscenity clearly violate the first amendment (not to mention common sense), and should be struck down. If Lawrence hastens that process, all the better.
It occurs to me (and I know I've said this before) that every argument that Scalia makes for the right of the states to forbid same-sex sex could also be used to argue for the right of the states to forbid different-race sex, and most arguments against same-sex marriage could equally be applied against different-race marriage.
Scalia mentions Loving (the decision that struck down laws against different-race marriage), but only very narrowly. The law that Loving struck down, Scalia says, was designed to maintain white supremacy, and therefore was subject to strict scrutiny. The Texas law, on the other hand, has "no purpose to discriminate against men or women as a class", so it's only subject to a "rational basis" argument, and the fact that lots of people think that same-sex sex is icky is a "rational basis" for the government to ban it.
The majority, fortunately, felt otherwise. If an intent to promote white supremacy tainted the law struck down in Loving, it's hard to see what, besides raw bigotry, would save the law in Lawrence from being struck down because of its obvious intent to promote heterosexual supremacy. No doubt Scalia thinks that only certain classes are protected, and homosexuals aren't one of them; but he gets that not from the Constitution itself, but from his own constipated notion of liberty. (I don't actually know if that's the tack that the opinion of the court takes; I haven't read that yet!)
Anyway, I could write about this for a long time, and maybe I will later. (In particular I want to think about the relative merits of the opinion of the court and of O'Connor's concurrence, which would have struck down the Texas law without overturning Bowers.) But clearly the most important question raised by this decision is: "Are there really states with laws against masturbation???".
A little poking around the Web hasn't found anything; I mean, you can't do it in public in Ohio, and you can't do it for hire in Georgia, and if you do it while fasting your fast doesn't count (not quite a State law, that one), but I can't find any evidence that some state of the U.S. actually outlaws masturbation simpliciter.
Any readers with further information are implored to send it in! Scalia couldn't have been just making that one up, surely?