Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Other stuff that happened today

Polls closed moments ago in the Commonwealth, and I am following returns via NPR where the calming soothing voices of the most creative names in broadcasting are reading senate wins and percentages all in a blurry ear-wash behind my head.

Other stuff is happening in the world today, though, and maybe only NPR will tell you about it. It is high Supreme Court season, which means Nina Totenberg re-enacting the transcripts for you.

Since traffic had come to a standstill on the state road that runs right past Bolton Town Hall (1 driveway in, 1 driveway out), I was treated to Nina's retelling of our highest court in the land arguing the finer points of "profanity vs vulgarity" and how much trouble a network should get into for letting it slip onto the air.

If you have a lunch hour to listen to the broadcast, you might prefer it over my re-cap, but I promise to excerpt the better moments.

Miss Bender the persona is not so much for swearing. This is a family show. But the woman behind her is a big fan -- the Middler the English, the better. Excuse your French? That ain't French, honey. Try swearing in French, and see what kind of looks you get.

Legal definition of profanity:
Profane material is defined as including language that denotes certain of those personally reviling epithets naturally tending to provoke violent resentment or denoting language so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually hear it as to amount to a nuisance.

Whew. and people say I write over the heads of my audience.
When I want to provoke violent resentment, I just talking in long rambling legalese sentences like this. I think, in short, this means "you knew it when you said it."

Ginsberg: "There seems to be no rhyme or reason for some of the decisions that the Commission has made. I mean, the Saving Private Ryan case was filled with expletives, and yet the film about jazz history, the words were considered a violation of the Commission's policies. So that there seems to be very little rhyme or reason to when the Commission says that one of these words is okay and when it says it isn't." uunnngh! how you like that?

And they were just getting started. I liked this moment, when the Justices and Counsel are deconstructing "the F-word," as they continue to call it, what time of day it magically becomes acceptable on television, and what life-altering effect it is having on children who might be watching The Golden Globe Awards (where everyone is drunk, by the way). Or as the attorney put it, "...the extremely shocking and graphic nature of using this language at 9:00 p.m. on an eastern night. " (I think "dark Georgia night" is always a more effective phrase for moments like this.)

And Justice Stevens says, "...is there ever appropriate for the Commission to take into consideration at all the question whether the particular remark was really hilarious, very, very funny?"

we need a gavel rim-shot right there.

Scalia agrees: "I mean, bawdy jokes are okay if they are really good. "

Uh-oh. Antonin Scalia and George Carlin... same age. Something has happened to the court. Can't you see Scalia in Foster Grants listening to the Class Clown album in someone's sunken living room, and appearing to be shocked/titillated? (Titillated you can still say) Picture James Womack from Courtship of Eddie's Father.

Counsel: "I think you can recognize the potentially greater harmful impact on children where you have celebrities using particularly graphic, vulgar, explicit, indecent language as part of the comedic routine during a show that children are comprising a substantial part of the viewing audience. "

Children watch the Golden Globes? Get cable.
On this note, I tried to find out how the FCC reacted to the Oscar Night streak in 1974, and found this exhaustive write-up where it is revealed he was not even arrested. Wardrobe malfunction, my ****.
At this point, the Court begins to use the word "prong" repeatedly, to describe 2 points of the FCC's policy, as being argued. Like this:
Breyer: "So that had to do with prong 1, not prong 2. "
You know Thomas would have giggled, if they ever let him speak. Ginsberg chimed in with the phrase "the bottom line of your brief."

It was in reading this transcript that I learned the phrase "heckler's veto." Don't be surprised when I use this on our next conference call, because I am dying to throw it out. When a law or a govt body curtails your right to speak out of fear of the party who will react to you... this is called the heckler's veto. If you say it about 20 times in 2 minutes, this is today's Supreme Court hearing. I am pretty sure in my environment that I will find a way to play this card.

This post is not particularly entertaining, and comes to no conclusion. But it isn't about the election.
You'll grant me that.

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