Don’t let the fire rush to your head

Don’t let the fire rush to your head January 23, 2020

Here is your open thread for January 23, 2020.

Jonatha Brooke celebrates her 56th birthday today. Here’s her lovely version of Alan Parsons’ biggest hit:

It’s also the birthday of Django Reinhardt, Anita Pointer, and the late great Danny Federici of the E Street Band.

January 23 is also the birthday of Hollywood western star Randolph Scott. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Randolph Scott movie, but I’ve seen Blazing Saddles countless times.

And it’s the birthday of former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart. Stewart dissented in Engel v. Vitale, arguing that somehow having state officials compose a prayer that students would be urged to recite was not an establishment of religion. And he dissented in Griswold v. Connecticut, arguing that the state’s criminalization of birth control was “an uncommonly silly law,” but that the Constitution didn’t mean a state inserting itself into people’s most intimate moments was a violation of their freedom or dignity.

Those were some forgettable arguments, but Stewart did give us one really good and memorable line. That came in the 1964 case Jacobellis v. Ohio, in which the Supreme Court overturned an Ohio theater owner’s obscenity conviction for showing Louis Malle’s The Lovers. Stewart said the First Amendment forbade most government censorship, but that it might be permitted in the case of “hard-core pornography.” What does that mean? “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

Edouard Manet was born on January 23, 1832. He painted “The Luncheon on the Grass” (Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe) in 1863.

That painting was something of a scandal in the 1860s, but was not condemned as obscene. I won’t try to define that distinction, but I know it when I see it.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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