Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Equal protection under the law

I watched the oral arguements before the California Supreme Court on television today. The case concerns, for those of you unfamiliar with it, the validity of approximately 4,000 marriage licenses granted in San Francisco in contravention of various state provisions. There were tough questions all around, but I think Ms. Stewart, San Francisco's attorney, definetly had the hardest time of it. Of all the lawyers, I was most impressed by the performance (although decidedly not the position) of Jordan Lorence, a lawyer for a conservative private organization opposed to same-sex marriage. His presentation was by far the most internally consistant, and I think he handled the questioning better than either the deputy attorney general or Ms. Stewart.

Echoing the sentiments of most news reports, I expect that San Francisco will lose. The question is actually quite narrow, focused on the mayor's authority to issue the licenses as opposed to the broader issue of same-sex marriage. The court wasn't particularly impressed with the rationale offered for the mayor's actions, and I think it is pretty clear that he was just going it alone on this one. Although it is possible to support almost any view with caselaw, what with there being so many cases to chose from, the weight of authority was definetly against San Francisco. Technically, Ms. Stewart's argument seemed pretty weak. Personally, I not only think San Francisco will lose, I think it should lose, at least insofar as we limit the issue to procedural matters. Allowing municipal executives to flaunt state law is not the best way to run society.

On the broader question, I think the only fair, the only American position, is the opposition of arbitrary discrimination. If equal protection under the law is to mean anything, it can only stand for the proposition that the government shall not be used as a tool of oppression. We have a collective obligation, each to the other, in the vigilence and maintenance of our rights. That we may not agree in thinking a behavior proper not only fails as an excuse, it requires us to act all the more feverently in the protection of communal liberties sacred above all else. No other responsibility will rise to the dignity that one citizen owes to all others, and no privilage more noble than to stand for the defense of another; even when, indeed especially when, the particulars may be personally disagreeable. Our duty as Americans requires us to stand our turn at watch, to ensure liberty for ourselves by protecting it for others. To abrogate this responsibility, to act instead as an embattled individual seeking to clothe one's own prejudices with the austere majesty of the law is an incomparable disservice. Success in such an endeavor brings only dishonor, a shame compounded over time, and a burden from which the future never truly escapes.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Dorama Personae

I'm a member of Japan-TV, a fansubbing group dedicated to subtitling Asian dramas. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of fansubbing, it's basically taking tv shows (or movies) from other countries and adding English subtitles. The work itself is time consuming and somewhat difficult, but it is an entertaining hobby.

Anyone who has not seen a Japanese drama, or dorama, is really missing out. Doramas are structured very different from American television. Series are drafted and produced to run only a single season, typically with twelve forty-five minute episodes. The shows typically center around a primary plot and a number of associated secondary plots. Fans of anime will recognize this format, but it does represent something of an oddity to people new to the genre. Second seasons are very rare, and indeed, many shows end in such a way as to make continuation difficult. The death of one, several, or all of the main characters is not unusual. Remakes are far more common than continuations, but even then the remake often diverges from the original story, sometimes in quite dramatic fashion.

One of the most interesting aspects of foreign television is the opportunity for cultural observation. Television, it must be remembered, is a highly sophisticated communications medium. Fiction represents a culture, not necessarily how it is, but how it would have itself seen. Of course, it is always dangerous to read too much into any form of entertainment, nevertheless, the fiction a culture produces is a commentary on that society.

The term "dramas" actually covers works of all genres. Below are a few suggested titles for new viewers.


Gokusen: The granddaugher of a yakuza (Japanese mafia) boss becomes a highschool teacher and is assigned to teach the troubled class.

Wedding Planner: A groom left at the alter is promoted to head a wedding planner agency. His staff hates him, his colleagues mock him, and his life is going nowhere fast.


Refrain: Shuji and Eri were a couple in college, but they had a huge fight and broke up. Eri went to New York to study dance, but she is injured in a car accident and forced to give up her dreams of performing. The two reunite a few years later in Tokyo, but each is involved with someone else.

Beautiful Life: Kyoko is a handicapped librarian confined to a wheelchair by an illness that is fatal in thirteen of forty-three cases. Shuji is an up and coming hair stylist who initially exploits Kyoko's disability by using her in a photospread, but later comes to admire her perseverance.

You can find out more about doramas at:


Also, you can visit us on mIRC at #Japan-TV @ Aniverse. Doramas are widely available by bittorrent and off of mIRC fservs. For those of you in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'll be hosting the Dorama fan panel at the Fanime convention on Friday, May 28th, at 1:00 p.m.

Monday, May 24, 2004

A new burden on the bandwagon

Here's the first post of my new blog. I admit I come to this practice only reluctantly, and it remains to be seen if it will endure. The maintenance of an internet journal, if done honestly, is a daunting task. If done otherwise, it seems a worthless one. Self-examination is not a process I find particularly disturbing, it's the mass publication part that I have a problem with. Many blogs side step this part, consumed in trivialities, or wrap themselves with trite, self-congratulatory depression. If I'm lucky, I'll do better. If I'm really lucky, someone'll even notice.

I have just completed my first full year of law school at Santa Clara University. It was my eighteenth consecutive year of scholastic pursuit, and the strain is starting to show. $35,000 (plus interest) and a year of my life have taught me two things about the law. I can do it, but I don't really want to. Now, everyone has to do something when they grow up, and this is as good a thing as any. People can say what they like about lawyers. The law is a noble pursuit; petty insults are the least burdens to be found in jurisprudence. There are aspects of it that are questionable, applications of it that are loathsome, practicioners of it that are reprehensible, yet even so the law remains a thing of beauty. It is good work, and it will be my good fortune to advance its cause insofar as I may. Still, it is not enough. School has never manage to coax more than mediocrity from me, and I expect professional life to fare no better. I take my responsibilities seriously, to be sure, but I do not revel in accomplishments. Work is something you do to live, not the other way around. So yeah, I'll finish law school and become a lawyer, not because it is my life's ambition, but because it is a fine and perhaps even noble way to support my life.

Of course, like everyone else, I have a secret burning desire to live off the bounty of my creative endeavors. For some people it's music or art, inspiration's foothold and the fuel for all the "wouldn't it be nice" daydreams. My own particular delusions are literary, relatively harmless but tenaciously persistent. I write often. Poorly too, but as Lenin said, "quantity has a quality all its own." Practice has left its mark, and with luck I may eventually complete something worth reading. Until then, and probably even so, I have to do something that will pay the bills.

I guess that'll do by way of an introduction.