Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kafka's Castle, Like Hell, a Place You Can Visit

Richardo Bofill's "Castle", 1968
In 1926, Franz Kafka introduced us to K. and his sisyphean struggle against bureaucracy.  The Castle has become a cultural metaphor for how government can make the most simple of tasks impossible.  In the practice of law, one makes frequent visits to the Castle.  Most recently, I spent 4 months trying to obtain a payoff amount on a Medicare subrogation claim (basically, I was trying to give the government money I had collected for them).  Despite the clear understanding that the "Castle" is a bad thing, Ricardo Bofill  of Taller de Arquitectura designed and built an apartment building inspired by the Castle.  The project was as experiment in construction without a plan.  Instead of a plan, the design was a formula: a series of cubes radiating from the center with each cube representing a different space.
Hell on Cayman Is.

So, if you want to visit the Castle, then head to Sant Pere de Ribes in Spain.  Likewise, if want to visit Hell, head to the Caymans.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chaucer and the U.S. Supreme Court: I know it when I hear it

George Carlin - 1978 - 7 Filthy Words
As one can guess, all references to Chaucer by the United States Supreme Court have concerned the issue of obscenity.

United States v. 12 200-ft. Reels of Super 8MM. Film, 413 US 123 (1973) - In this case, the Court considered the issue of whether a person could import obscene material for personal use.  The dissent makes reference to the ribald character of the Canterbury Tales.  The dissent explains that it is impossible to define "obscenity" because it is ever shifting and highly subjective.  For example, Chaucer was morally offensive to Victorian England, now it is required reading in US high schools... just don't let them read the "Miller's Tale."

FCC v. Pacifica Foundation, 438 US 726 (1978) -  This is the landmark case addressing George Carlin's "7 Filthy Words" monologue that was aired in 1973. The dissent cites to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales as an example of literature that could not be read, un-edited, on the radio under the current FCC rules concerning obscenity.

FCC v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 129 S. Ct. 1800 (2009) - The case discusses the FCC fines for cussing on a live television broadcast.
"This case concerns utterances in two live broadcasts aired by Fox Television Stations, Inc., and its affiliates prior to the Commission's Golden Globes Order. The first occurred during the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, when the singer Cher exclaimed, "I've also had critics for the last 40 years saying that I was on my way out every year. Right. So f* * * `em." Brief for Petitioners 9. The second involved a segment of the 2003 Billboard Music Awards, during the presentation of an award by Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, principals in a Fox television series called "The Simple Life." Ms. Hilton began their interchange by reminding Ms. Richie to "watch the bad language," but Ms. Richie proceeded to ask the audience, "Why do they even call it `The Simple Life?' Have you ever tried to get cow s* * * out of a Prada purse? It's not so f* * *ing simple." Id., at 9-10. Following each of these broadcasts, the Commission received numerous complaints from parents whose children were exposed to the language."
The Court goes on to explain that a case by case analysis is appropriate.  For example, what and when an expletive is said makes a difference.  Children would not be watching a live production of the Miller's Tale, and if they did, they would be cussing their parents for control of the remote control.  [Note: this my be an inaccurate interpretation of the opinion.]

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

70th Anniversary of the Act of March 21, 1942: Criminalized Being a Japanese American

Gordon Hirabayashi, 1945
The forced interment of Japanese Americans during WWII is a sad, dark shadow on American History.  By Executive Order 9066, President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the Secretary of War to designate "military areas" within the US from where US citizens and residents (of Japanese ancestry) may be excluded.  The Legislative Act of March 21, 1942 (Public Law 503) ratified the the president's order and made it a criminal offense to defy that order.

The law went into effect immediately; the judicial review of the law took some time.  The first Supreme Court case to review the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066 and the Act of March 21, 1942 was Hirabayashi v. US, 320 U.S. 81 (1943).  A senior at the University of Washington, Mr. Hirabayashi was charged with two crimes: failing to remain within the designated military area after curfew and failing to report to the Civil Control Station.  Mr. Hirabayashi challenged his conviction on the grounds that the laws unconstitutionally discriminated against US citizens of Japanese descent.  Mr. Hirabayashi was born in the US and had never traveled to Japan. 

The Supreme Court acknowledged that race is, most of the time, irrelevant and that discrimination based on race is, most of the time, prohibited.  But, the Court said that when dealing "with the perils of war," race may be relevant for acts taken in the interest of national defense or the "successful prosecution of war."  In support of their conclusion, Justice Stone quoted Justice Marshall in the landmark decision of McCulloch v. Maryland.  "We must never forget, that it is a constitution we are expounding," "a constitution intended to endure for ages to come, and, consequently, to be adapted to various crises of human affairs."  The "crisis of human affairs" in McCulloch was the creation of a national bank system. The McCulloch decision firmly established the supremacy of federal law over state law, reasoning that the authority of the US Constitution derives directly from the people and not from the states.  The effect of McCulloch was to extend the authority of the US government beyond specifically enumerated powers.  The authority to create a national bank may not be expressly created by the Constitution, but that authority is granted between the lines by the "necessary and proper" clause.  The Legislature has the power to create "all laws" which are necessary and proper for executing the express powers vested by the Constitution.

It is easy to look back and criticize an opinion forged in throws of world war, but when a nation needed calm sobriety, the Judiciary failed its citizens.  In light of McCulloch, the 1942 Court should have asked "Did the people of the United States grant the federal government the power to detain its citizens based on race without due process of law?"  "Various crises of human affairs" cannot be a justification and judicial tool for abrogating citizen's freedoms.  What we learn from Justice Marshall in the McCulloch case is that an analysis of constitutional power begins with the citizens of the nation who relinquished their autonomy "to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and secure the blessings of liberty to themselves and to their posterity."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Deceptive Horses: Uffington White Horse and da Vinci

The famed Uffington White Horse gained a rider this month.  Paddy Power, an online betting service, added a giant jockey stylized to match its mount, a Bronze Age earth sculpture carved into the hills of Oxfordshire. Unlike the Paddy Jockey, the origin of the ancient horse is shrouded in mystery.  About 3000 years ago, regional tribes carved the horse out of the chalk hills.  Why?  Either the horse symbolized the tribe, marking its territory, or the carving had religious significance, evoking the one of many deities associated with horses and the sun.  Today, the White Horse is one of the most important cultural artifacts of England, thus it is a great target for creative advertisements.

Uffington White Horse with Rider
In other horse retaliated news, the lost Battle of Anghiari by da Vinci may have been discovered behind a Vasari mural in the Palazzo Vecchio.  
Vasari's Battle of Marciano may hide a long lost da Vinci.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Hole Building and The Ancient Liangzhu Bi

Th "Hole" Building in the Chinese city of Guangzhou
Some of the most interesting architecture is happening in Asia.  The sudden and tremendous growth in wealth has provided Asian corporations with the capital and confidence to build outside the traditional box.  Tradition and homogeneity, important principals of Confucian social order, have been set aside for  creativity and bold expression.  The Guangdong Plastics Exchange building or the "Hole Building,"as it is being called, attempts to merge tradition and modern engineering.  The "hole" design is based on an ancient Chinese artifact, the bi.  A bi is a jade disc from the neolithic Liangzhu culture ( 3000-2000 BCE).  Considering that the building is dedicated to a modern commodity, plastic, the reference to jade, an ancient commodity of great value in China, is appropriate.  Unfortunately, many have associated the building's design with the shape of Chinese coins which have a hole in the middle.  Thus for some, the building looks like a giant symbol of money.
A jade Bi.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Law and Poetry: Remembering Petrarch

In 1320, Petrarch left Florence for Bologna to study law.  The University of Bologna was the first university in the Western World, established in 1088.  He studied in Bologna until 1326 when his father, a lawyer, passed away.  Free from family expectations (and a little richer from his inheritance), Petrarch abandoned his studies in law to pursue his interest in poetry and history.  In the following year he met Laura, his muse.  Other than through Petrarch's poems, the historical Laura has been lost to history.  

Here is an excerpt from Sonnet 140:

"She who teaches me to love
 and to suffer and who wishes that reason,
 modesty and reverence should restrain my
 great desire and burning hope, thrusts aside
 and disdains our ardor."
Baylor WCII Faculty in the law school of Bologna

Monday, March 5, 2012

Graffiti Artist Tilt Goes Commercial - Hotel Room only half painted

Panic Room by Tilt
Tilt ??

Panic Room by Tilt
For those seeking a relaxing stay in Marseille, France, consider the "Panic Room" at the Au Vieux Panier hotel.  Tilt, a bubble-fetish graffiti artist from Toulouse, was commissioned to "tag" half of a hotel room. It is not clear whether the hotelier ran out of money or Tilt ran out of paint, but the half-white, half-graffiti room is striking.