Sep 30, 2010

Trial is Over!

And holy crap, we won.

That means my life can get back in order for a few weeks (before moving up to Michigan for another trial!).

I don't know how Assistant US Attorneys (AUSA's) do it. They are constantly in court, constantly filing motions, constantly having trials. I have two in the course of two months and feel like I'm going to melt. The worst part is how it puts your life on hold in such a frustratingly indefinite way.

However, I have been doing some stuff art-wise. I'll post the sketches that I did during the trial when I am back at work (took today off, woot). Days off do mean art for me, so today, I've been working on this little guy (work in progress):

I heart my tablet. I heart cheetahs. I heart cheetahs drawn on my tablet.

I also heart sketching things onto a colored background. I don't do it enough. Starting with a rusty, neutral pinky-brown automatically gives you a shadow palette, and you don't even need to do anything.

Sep 28, 2010

Trial Is Over (Almost!)

So, the past few weeks I haven't been blogging because I've been part of a case staff going to trial. The jury is still deliberating as of this writing, so though my role in the whole operation is over, the operation itself is not.

Being in 'law mode', therefore, has led me to an interesting article by Jeffrey Rosen in The New Republic reviewing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's new book Making Democracy Work. Now, I like Justice Breyer. He seems like one of the nicest justices on the Court. I respect that for the past few years he's been taking strides to find a way to counter Justice Scalia's thoroughly expounded originalism. However, he's dead wrong in almost all his opinions, and Mr. Rosen is dead wrong in his softhanded, uncritical approach to Breyer's clear inconsistency.

The biggest argument against originalism is that, by its nature, it puts too much power in the hands of a small group of judges to determine what some people writing hundreds of years ago thought about something. Or, even more difficult, is Scalia's version: that the Constitution should be interpreted in light of what the common people believed it to have meant at the time of ratification. How on earth could someone decipher what a common person thought in 1787, let alone common people? Instead, originalists use clues from writings of the time and early legal interpretations. It's certainly not perfect, but it's workable. It also limits the reach of the Constitution, which inarguably was construed in a very limited manner upon ratification.

Though originalism tends to comport with a conservative (or libertarian) view of the role of government in society, it is unfair to say that it's a 'conservative' philosophy in the sense that by being 'conservative' it exists for partisan political ends. Originalism would exist without the Republican party, and absent a coherent school of originalist thought, the Republican party would survive with a less nuanced judicial interpretation.

Breyer's judicial philosophy seems to come from something else. It is strangely reactive, seemingly trying to find a way to make the square peg of liberal political preferences fit into the round hole of the Constitution. That's not to say that all liberal political positions are unconstitutional, but it is to say that Breyer is trying to create a framework in which all are constitutional without question.

Even so, taking Justice Breyer's purported philosophy at face value is what should be done. His motivations for concocting it shouldn't discount how right or wrong he is (no ad hominem here!).

Rosen, in his review, summarizes Breyer's view:

Breyer persuasively acknowledges the Court’s inability to act unilaterally by arguing that it should consider—and often defer to—the institutional views of the President and Congress in deciding cases. Here Breyer shows an appealing humility, which contrasts with the grandiosity of originalist judges who believe they have a unique ability to discern the one and true meaning of the Constitution, and to put the other branches in their place.

Rosen here is wrong here at best, demagogic at worst. In fact, originalists judges constantly explain the need to defer to the other branches, not because of their institutional existence (as Rosen posits Breyer does), but because of their very reason for existence. Congress should always get deference, because Congress embodies the very democracy our nation purports to have. When Congress passes a law, the presumption is that it is a law of the people, interpreted in a way such as the people intend it to be interpreted. What nine guys in robes think should hold very little water to that.

That said, however, all judges will agree with this point: when Congress acts in a way forbidden to it by the Constitution, judges should strike down those acts. Scalia is all for that in many cases. Breyer is, too (Boumediene v. Bush, anyone?), just not the same cases as Scalia. To act as though originalists simply disregard the other branches while 'living constitutionalists' don't is ridiculous.
What's frightening about Breyer's interpretation, however, is made in a point I referenced earlier. Breyer believes that Congress deserves deference simply because it is a branch of government. While structurally this is true, this view is in direct opposition to what Rosen claims is Breyer's great strength: active democracy and citizen participation is at the heart of judicial interpretation. If there is one thing that liberal jurisprudence has given this nation, it is a series of decisions that have been against the public will. While the American people will say that abortion should be available but severely limited, flag-burning should be illegal, guns should be legal, and prayer should be allowed in public places, Breyer and his adherents would step right over them, strangely inviting them to participate in the process only to strike down their democratically-achieved Constitutional interpretation. And I'm not saying that he might do that in the future--I'm saying that in many decisions, he already has. Originalists have as well, but their reasonings for going against public opinion are based on an unwavering and discernable constitutional standard. Breyer's is based on how he feels at the moment. Which one would you trust to make the right choice?

And that's why I doubt Breyer--and judicial liberals for that matter--will ever find a coherent philosophy. You cannot say that deference should be given to people in a democracy when the views of the people are only allowed when liberal judges agree. And alternatively, you cannot say that Congress gets deference simply because Congress exists.

So, to end my stream-of-conscious rambling, I will say that I doubt Breyer's philosophy will be more than a blip in the big scheme of judicial understanding. He's grasping at straws, and however much writers like Jeffrey Rosen want to give deference to Breyer, my inclination is to give more deference to those who have given me a basis of belief that's more solid than one man's ever-changing feelings.

Sep 14, 2010

As If Apple Couldn't Get Any Cooler...

I pray with all my might that this headline is accurate:

because then there is no possible way that Apple could get any cooler. Their machines are slick, beautiful, and efficient. And their CEO carries ninja stars on planes.

Sep 10, 2010

Meeting Doodles

Kermit and the Smithsonian

Apparently, about two weeks ago, the original Kermit the Frog, made by Jim Henson out of a green coat (and not yet really a frog), was donated by Jim's widow, Jane, to the Smithsonian, along with a few other puppets from the early Sam and Friends days. What a wonderful thing for Mrs. Henson to have done! I can't wait to see how they display them all.

Below is a great skit with Kermit from the good ol' days, followed by a montage of Wilkins and Wontkins commercials--classically Henson, full of unapologetic assault, violence, and maiming.

Sep 9, 2010

The Newt That Wasn't

There are many Pixar films coming in out in the next few years, but the one that I had been most excited about was to be called Newt, summarized thusly (courtesy of aintitcool):

Set to be released in Summer of 2011, directed by Gary Rydstrom, who is famous for working sound design for Cameron, Lucas and Spielberg as well as directing the great Pixar short LIFTED.

Rydstrom came out wheeling a complicated 9 part Newt mating ritual chart, like you’d find in a science lab or biology class.

Rydstrom says the film is about the last two blue footed newts on this earth, a male and a female, who are thrown together by science and can’t stand each other.

Newt, our lead, has been in captivity since he was a tadpole. He’s lonely. His only friend is a lifeless sock puppet. He can see the mating ritual chart from his cage and practices day in and day out, getting ready for scientists to capture him a girlfriend. “And who can’t relate to that?” asks Rydstrom.

Unfortunately, the 9th and final step is obscured by a Mr. Coffee, so he doesn’t know how the ritual ends. “It’s the way of life. You wanna know step 9 and there’s a Mr. Coffee in front of it.”

Brook is the name of the last female Blue-Footed Newt. She is in the wild and has no idea she’s the last female of her species. She escapes all sorts of dangers in her day to day life, including being evasive of these crazy biologists who are always chasing her. Rydstrom describes her evasive capabilities as making her an “amphibious Errol Flynn.”

One day they catch her and bring her back to the lab and present her to Newt. They have “the world’s worst first date” before through circumstance they both end up in the wild. Newt is worthless out here, but Brook gets him through the trials.

They meet a character named Eddie, a giant Hellbender Salamander, who is a ladies man and passes along his incredibly shallow ideas of love to Newt. Of course, they predictably don’t work.

“Newt is a movie about how finding a mate never goes as you expect even, make that especially, if you only have one choice.”

Looked cute enough, but I didn’t really see enough to really feel strongly one way or the other. I loved what Rydstrom did with LIFTED, so I’m game to see him take on this project.

This was going to be great. It would be classic Pixar--taking on serious subjects in a meaningful but lighthearted way. Think of Toy Story and friendship/jealousy, Finding Nemo and being a good parent, Cars and controlling one's ego, or Ratatouille and finding value in seemingly valueless places. Each story isn't only beautiful in a visual sense, but also substantive in its story. Newt was going to take on love--what a great subject for Pixar to tackle!

Unfortunately, they cancelled the project. Perhaps it will be resurrected sometime in the future, like the 27th Amendment, but I'm not banking on it. The company did, however, release a bunch of the concept art on its facebook page last week. Below are a few of my favorites, but I'd encourage you to take a look at all of them!

Sep 3, 2010

Glen Keane Rules!

Glen Keane is kind of awesome. Who is Glen Keane, you ask? He's only, like, the greatest animator in the last half century.

Seriously, he's really good. He's most famous for having done the Beast in Beauty and the Beast

though he also did Ariel and a bunch of others.

Anywho, I just saw this lecture that he did on animation (back in 2007...I'm late to the party). It's really excellent to watch, since he covers so many important topics of animation: arcs, anticipation, exaggeration, weight, balance, timing...just watch it, and you'll be glad you did.

Charles Addams

If you are under the age of 50 and/or never read The New Yorker, then you've probably never heard of Charles Addams. You've almost certainly heard of his most famous cartoon, however, "The Addams Family". Apparently, he was a magnificent and witty cartoonist for many years. I just discovered him (on a tip from a friend). He's a little morbid, but that's what makes his work so enjoyable.

On another note, he was related to president John Adams, even though the last name is spelled differently. By marriage, I too am somehow related to John Adams (but I'm not exactly sure how...). Maybe we're long lost cousins. Or, maybe it's just a pipe dream.

His interest in the macabre didn't just stop at the drawing table. Though people remembered him as rather suave and friendly, not 'fiendish' at all, he married his third wife in a pet cemetery. That's right. A pet cemetery.

Interesting fellow, no?

Sep 1, 2010

The Other Two Star Wars Posters

The guy who made that cool Empire Strike Back poster has two more for the other two original movies:

Domino's Gets Pwned

Domino's was quite possibly the grossest pizza ever. Then they changed their recipe. Now they are still the grossest pizza ever and failures to boot. For shame, Domino's.

However, Anthony's Pizza (never heard of 'em!) has a great ad campaign making fun of Domino's' woes.
True that, Anthony's. True that.