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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

James Madison's Memorial is Weeping*

 This week Iowan Christopher Handley was sentenced to 6 months in prison for owning manga. Well, that wasn't what he was charged with, but that's what he's going down for. He was jailed for "possessing drawings [DRAWINGS!] of children being sexually abused." In the United States we have this thing called a First Amendment which states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech or of the press...." (recalled that from memory; just saying). Not for this guy. Handley pleaded guilty under "Title 18, United States Code, Section 1466A(b)(1), which prohibits the possession of any type of visual depiction, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct that is obscene." DRAWINGS!
 For a history of the case go here.
 For a way more eloquent defense of smut and "icky speech" go here.

*Oh, wait, Madison doesn't have a memorial. (Well, OK, he has a memorial building in Washington DC.)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Doomed I tells ya!

 The other day I was in a Borders bookstore among the biographies and a man and a teenage boy walked into the section. The kid was about 14 and I from his demeanor, I think the man was his divorced father. Anyway, we'll call them 'father' and 'son'. From the conversation, I gleaned that the son was doing a report on a famous person. (For the record, I wasn't trying to listen, but they were speaking loudly enough that if you were in the bios you could hear.) And the conversation went something like this:
 Dad: "Here's a book on Franklin Roosevelt."
 Son: "Who the hell is Franklin Roosevelt?"
 Repeat for the next minute or so, just with names like John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt, and Marie Curie. And the kid had this slow sing-song voice that gave me the impression that speaking was a mental strain.He knew celebrities like George Lopez, but Dad wasn't having any of that. Junior knew who Houdini was, but balked when Dad showed him a book that looked maybe 300 pages long. Junior said "Thass... way... too... big."
  All the while, I'm standing there in a corner where two bookshelves intersect looking at Ron Chernow's bio of Alexander Hamilton (Who... the... hell... is... Alexander... Hamilton?). I didn't want to leave because I was working like a crazy monkey to not smile or laugh at this poor imbecile and if I turned around they might see. After they left to look for the autobiographies (the kid misread "Audiobooks") I escaped.
 If Whitney Houston is right and children are our future, we're screwed.
 By the way, I didn't get the Chernow, because I remembered that I have an unread Hamilton biography by Richard Brookhiser sitting at home. Too bad, it looked pretty good.