Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

78th Oscariad, Part I

I'll post more expansive thoughts (and my predictions) later, but for now I just wanted to point out an oddity in the best documentary category: the snubbing of both The Aristocrats and Grizzly Man. Since I thought Grizzly Man was the best picture of the year, period, I find its being passed over particularly odd.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Brits Dubious About Evolution

Further evidence that post-Christian Britain isn't some kind of oasis of rationalism. (ht: the Corner)

See also.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

If the Pope Teaches Heresy

In the reading for tomorrow's Catholic Social Teaching class: the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on "Infallibility" It's mostly stuff you already knew, but it did contain this curious passage:
A similar exceptional situation might arise were a pope to become a public heretic, i.e., were he publicly and officially to teach some doctrine clearly opposed to what has been defined as de fide catholicâ. But in this case many theologians hoId that no formal sentence of deposition would be required, as, by becoming a public heretic, the pope would ipso facto cease to be pope. This, however, is a hypothetical case which has never actually occurred; even the case of Honorius, were it proved that he taught the Monothelite heresy, would not be a case in point.
Does this strike anyone else as somewhat question-begging? If the pope attempts to infallibly teach something that seems like heresy to you, do you a) assume it's not heresy because the pope is protected by his charism of infallibility* or b) assume he's no longer the pope because he's taught heresy? Does Catholic teaching provide a rule of decision on this issue? Are we all just cafeteria Sedevacantists?

*Which - let's be honest - sounds like something you'd use to battle the Rust Monster in Dungeons & Dragons.

Google vs. Google

I suspect somebody else has pointed this out already, but isn't there something a bit incongruous about the same company assenting to Chinese censorship demands while simultaneously vigorously fighting a subpoena from the American government?

Save Us, Gamera!

My old nemesis, the giant jellyfish, has set its sights on Japan.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Is That a Bird in Your Hand...

...or are you just happy to see me?

Virginia Postrel has a neat article on the relationship between numeracy and willingness to take risks. Particularly flabbergasting are the number of people who'd choose $500 over a 15% chance of $1,000,000. I mean, $5,000, maybe. It's still a terrible deal, but it's a more comprehensible one. Accepting the $500 isn't risk-averseness, it's lunacy!

Anyway, worth a read. And when you're done, ponder: a) how this relates to who plays the lottery, b) how this relates to what kinds of people play what kind of casino games (slot machines vs. craps vs. blackjack vs. poker).

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

With an Assist from the Rats of NIMH

"Faeries stop developers' bulldozers in their tracks"

Boy, I'm sure glad that post-Christian Scotland has emancipated itself from superstition and irrationality.

(link via the Corner)

Dwyers in the News

Try to spot the member of my proud and noble band in this news story. (ht: NRO) It's not the first time a Dwyer has been on this side of this issue. Back in 2000, Ruth Dwyer ran (unsuccessfully) for governor of Vermont with basically the same idea in mind.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Plainly the Case

What Canon of Statutory Interpretation are You?
You are the Plain Meaning Rule! You interpret statutes according to what an ordinary speaker of English would understand from the text. You're upfront and direct. You claim that you're just following the rules, but often find a clever technicality to interpret the rules however you want.
Via Professor Bainbridge

Monday, January 23, 2006

Many Happy Returns!

Today is the birthday of Okie priest-blogger Father Shane Tharp. Huzzah!

"He's Back (in Pog Form)."

Just so people don't panic, I have successfully returned from Vegas. I've got a full slate of classes today, but will hopefully get around to posting some of my almost 400 pictures from the trip, and relating some amusing (to me at least) observations and anecdotes from my weekend on the Strip.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Off to Las Vegas...

3L trip. Be back late Sunday. Hopefully Sin City doesn't eat me alive.

First Album: Purgatory by the Dashboard Light

Am I the only one who thinks "Mighty Mitres" would make a good name for a rock group?

What is the Internet For?

A pretty funny (though R-rated) World of Warcraft/Avenue Q mash-up.

(via Prettier than Napoleon)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What America Has Been Pining For

A teen-comedy version of Twelfth Night, starring Amanda Bynes.

A movie that appeals to the Eve Tushnets and the The Sports Guys of the world. How could it fail?!?

Pure-hearted and True

How evil are you?

Via the lovely Sarah, who's the yin to my yang.

In the Vale of Tears

"To suffer and endure, therefore, is the lot of humanity, let men try as they may, no strength or artifice will ever succeed in banishing from human life the ills and troubles which beset it."
-- His Holiness Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum

The funny thing about that sentence is that it's either ludicrous, and reason to reject Rerum Novarum as just more medieval obscurantism, or obvious, and evidence that the Church and her teachings are for all times, ever ancient and ever new.

The Revolution Will Be Blogged

Professor Peñalver mentions his Catholic Social Teaching seminar over at Mirror of Justice. I'll be taking the class, and have already started doing the reading, which I find quite fascinating.

As the term goes on, I plan to blog my observations about how it's going, as well as the similarities and differences I encounter between teaching the course at Fordham and at Yale.
Fear! Terror!

Two can play that game, Eduardo....

UPDATE: I meant to mention this earlier - one of the texts for CST is Princeton Robert George's Making Men Moral, which retails for a mean $70. What's up with that? (The price, I mean.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Well, That Makes Sense, I Suppose...

A Tombstone
A Tombstone

How Should Your Death Be Marked?
brought to you by Quizilla

(via Fiddleback Fever)

"Keep your Deuteronomy off my physiognomy."

Famous Last Words

Facing death: the wiki. My favorite remains Ned Kelly's, but Karl Marx's is not without charm. (via Don Jim)

Weird Burial Customs, Tibetan

"Their first encounter with the 'real' Tibet was the sky burial of a high lama. Schäfer and Dolan watched fascinated as the dead man was wrapped in linen and laid out on a platform of stones. Prayer flags fluttered all around and priests burnt juniper wood. Men in white aprons, the tomden or yogin-butchers - members of Tibet's outcasts the ragyapa - weilding big whetted cleavers, approached and unwrapped the corpse, which they quickly and expertly sliced from head to toe, exposing flesh and bone. All the while, big restless vultures were gathering, their wings rattling as they flew down. They were kept at bay by men with long poles, though ot for long, because they were important participants in the ritual. After the tomden had removed the corpse's viscera, he shouted 'Shey! Shey!' ('Eat! Eat!') and the formidable birds, with their two-metre wingspans, descended on the corpse , covering it in a threshing mass of feathers. The tomden assisted their feasting by wading in to dismember the legs and arms. After just fifteen minutes, the vultures had completed their frenzied meal - or at least their main course. For the final dish, the tomden crushed the skull with a stone mallet, mixed the brain matter with tsampa flour and urged the birds to feast again. 'The ceremony would have been impressive', Dolan noted, 'but for the odour of the body which had evidently been buried for some time and exhumed on the appropriate day.'"
--Christopher Hale, Himmler's Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race.

AG Can't Punish "Death with Dignity" Docs

So the Supreme Court has ruled 6-3 in favor of Oregon in Gonzales v. Oregon, with Justice Kennedy writing the majority opinion and Justices Scalia and Thomas, and Chief Justice Robets, in dissent. I haven't yet read the opinions, but from what I've seen in the media it appears that the decision turned on an issue of statutory interpretation - that the Attorney General was claiming powers under the Controlled Substances Act that the Act simply didn't give him. If that is indeed the basis of the judgment, then I think the majority is probably correct, and I'm heartened to see they resisted the temptation to make implausible claims about federalism or substantive due process.

Relatedly, I find it amusing/appalling/not-at-all-surprising the extent to which this case is being misreported in the mainstream press. CNN's headline: "Oregon assisted suicide law upheld". Which is in some sense correct, but in a more complete sense, it's completely ass-backward. The constitutionality of Oregon's (Orwellian-sounding) "Death with Dignity Act" was not in question in this litigation. Rather, it was the constitutionality of efforts to frustrate the execution of the DWDA that were under review. The Supreme Court did not invalidate Oregon's assisted suicide law, for the trivially true reason that nobody was asking them too.

(cross-posted at Originalisms)

Saturday, January 14, 2006


How could I possibly not have heard about this? (Trust me, you should follow the link all the way through.) I think I've developed my first post-Kong cinematic obsession...

The Trials of Cat People, Even Powerful Ones

It seems His Holiness Benedict XVI has been sneaking out at night to visit his old apartment. Dom Bettinelli suggests he's visiting his cats, who cannot live with him in the papal apartments, since pets are banned from the Vatican.

But couldn't he just, y'know, change the rules, or grant himself an exemption? He's the Vicar of Christ, for goodness sake! The leader of the Church Militant! He's Pope! Who's going to stop him? Was the "no pets allowed" rule infallibly defined by one of his predecessors on the Throne of Peter?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Au Revoir

At its former proprietor's request, I've de-linked to the now defunct Brainerd blog. While it lasted, it was a delightful piece of blogospheric quirkiness, not unlike its creator. 'Twill be missed. But such is life.

Vaya con dios, the Brainerd.

Truly, This is Super NES.

A new definition of genius: Scenes from Mike Tyson's Punch Out, re-enacted live. Suffice it to say, the kind of thing that needs to be seen to be believed. (via Aereoperro)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

In the Realms of the Unreal

Saw "In the Realms of the Unreal" today. It's a documentary about Henry Darger, a janitor from Chicago who lived in almost total isolation his entire life, and who - over a 60 year period up until just before his death in 1972 - wrote and illustrated a 15,000 page novel of the same name as the movie.

Darger's story is a fascinating one. He's clearly a profoundly damaged and troubled man. At a young age his mother died, and his sister was given away for adoption. He lived with his disabled tailor father for a few years, until his father could no longer work to support them and Henry was moved to an orphanage. Judged "feeble-minded" because of behavioral problems, he was sent to boy's home in Nebraska. At 17 he escaped the home, returned (halfway on foot!) to Chicago, and took work as a janitor, which - other than writing and illustrating his novel and an autobiography - was pretty much all he did until his death at 80.

The novel, in many ways an even stranger piece of work than Darger himself, reflects the obsessions of a man whose trials seem to have left him largely unable to cope in the adult world. It's heroes are seven pre-adolescent girls, the Vivian sisters, who lead a revolt of the child slaves against their masters the Glandelinians, and Darger himself, in the form of a dashing warrior and defender of children who helps lead the Christian armies of Abbiennia in their war of liberation against Glandelinia. Christianity plays a substantial role in the book, which seems to reflect the mind of Darger, a devout (three Masses a day, that's how devout) Catholic whose troubled life and unanswered prayers (to be able to adopt a child, to recover a lost photograph of a murdered girl over whom Darger became obsessed) left him periodically spiteful with his Maker. The Realms of the Unreal are a world of blood and danger, but also of beauty and heroism. And I haven't even mentioned the illustrations. They really have to be seen to be believed.

Judge: Fetuses Not People for Carpool Purposes

I'm a reasonably staunch defender of the legal and metaphysical personhood of unborn humans, but cases like this strike me as more than a little ridiculous. As a matter of both rational statutory interpretation and sound policy, it seems blindingly obvious that the statute doesn't cover fetuses. Aside from the purposive argument the Arizona judge laid out, consider this: if the traffic laws were intended to apply uniformly to all persons born and unborn, then wouldn't the woman in this case be liable for failing to secure her under-5 year old child in an appropriate child passenger restraint system (Arizona Revised Statutes 28-907)?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Glimpse Rome's Secret Archives

This is so cool. See the Papal Bull excommunicating Martin Luther! The seal of Antipope Nicholas V! The decree of union of the Council of Florence! It's (literally) a treasure trove of all things Catholic. (via the Shrine)

"True Confessions of a Young Catholic"

I read Matthew Lickona's Swimming with Scapulars this morning, after awakening at the unholy (when one is on vacation) hour of 6:45am and being unable to get back to sleep. It's really quite amazing, an enjoyable and at times quite moving portrait of a post-conciliar lay Catholic life. Particularly note-worthy is the steely honestly with which Lickona assesses himself. Fitting, I suppose, for a spiritual memoir like this one, but still somewhat jarring in an age that admits everything and confesses nothing.

Anyway, more thoughts anon, once I've adequately digested the book.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

For the Record

You scored as Chalcedon compliant. You are Chalcedon compliant. Congratulations, you're not a heretic. You believe that Jesus is truly God and truly man and like us in every respect, apart from sin. Officially approved in 451.

Chalcedon compliant




























Are you a heretic?
created with

(via the Shrine)

Monday, January 09, 2006

Worst. Exam Schedule. Ever.

Tomorrow will be the fourth day on which scheduled Fall semester exams can be offered. (The first having been last Thursday.) I will had three-hour exams on three of those four days (one on Thursday, one this afternoon, one tomorrow morning). That's a pretty brutal schedule.

And yes, I am making a desperate claim on your pity.

And yes, I'm in no real danger, as it's basically impossible to fail an exam at YLS.

And yes, I really should be studying rather than blogging.

Friday, January 06, 2006

What's the Feminine of "Philanthropist"?

According to the New York Times, it's "socialite":
The Metropolitan Opera has received the largest individual gift in its history, a $25 million donation from the socialite Mercedes Bass and her husband, Sid R. Bass, that comes at a time of increasing financial troubles for the house.
Compare this to how a male donor (who, by the way, reneged on his gift) is treated later in the article:
In effect, the gift to the Met replaces the unfulfilled pledges of Alberto W. Vilar, an investor and arts philanthropist. The Met added Mr. Vilar's name to its Grand Tier in recognition of a $20 million pledge several years ago, then removed it when he failed to meet the pledge. Mr. Vilar has since fallen from grace with his indictment on fraud charges in June.
Seriously, though, what is it? Philanthropix? Ahh, well.

UPDATE: Okay, I'll fess up. I lifted this from Sarah.


Herm "You play. To win. The game." Edwards looks to be on his way out as Jets head coach. No shock there, and no hard feelings on my end. Genuinely shocking, and hard-feelings-inducing, is this rumor:
Among the potential candidates to replace Edwards, if he does depart, is former New Orleans coach Jim Haslett, dismissed earlier this week. But a Jets official told that, while there is some interest in Haslett, most of the dialogue has been initiated by his agent. And the official conceded that hiring a coach who had an even worse record in 2005 than Edwards did would be a difficult sell to Jets fans.
A "difficult sell". Yeah, no sh*t.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

To the Death!

Who'd win in a fight: the polar bears who drove the White Witch's war-chariot, or the polar bears from Lost?

Monday, January 02, 2006

It's a Helluva Town!

Greg of the Discernment Dilemma (and his worthy pere) visited the Big Apple last weekend. They seem to have had a good time; among other things, they attended Mass in my old parish, St. Vincent Ferrer.

If I may play the Irishman for a moment (that is, tell a largely apocryphal story completely unbidden): Greg's story of the rude man in the synagogue reminds me of a story told of my Quaker maternal great-grandmother.

She was in a conversation with a high-society gent, a mainline Protestant of some kind, when the subject of her membership in the Society of Friends came up. "A Quaker?" he said. "Why, that's almost Christian."

"Oh yes," she replied, "It's all most Christian."

Mansfield Fox at the Movies

Slate has two good articles on the economics of the movie industry.

Speaking of movies, here is a list of the films I saw over my Christmas break, in order of my enjoying them.

1. Munich: Spielberg's latest is well-directed and well-acted, and resists the temptation to late-reel mawkishness that has ruined his most recent work (I'm looking at you, War of the Worlds and A.I.). The plot is obviously of contemporary importance, but the September 11th/War on Terror parallels aren't crudely hammered home (again, you, War of the Worlds); the film pulls of the delicate trick of being neither didactic nor relativist about its subject matter.

2. Brokeback Mountain: The movie looks fantastic (I was going to say "fabulous", but, y'know...); the first act, which actually takes place on Brokeback Mountain, features some of the most beautiful vistas (and sheep! - who knew sheep could pack such an aesthetic wallop?) that I've ever seen. The biggest problem was the casting of Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist. Gyllenhaal cuts a more-than-faintly ridiculous figure as a cowboy (which, I suspect, is the point, but still). From his first appearance about a minute into the movie, he kept shattering my suspension of disbelief. As for the, y'know, plot: too many thoughts for a short blurb; perhaps a full post later.

3. The Ringer: It a small movie, it starts off a bit slow, and Johnny Knoxville isn't exactly the next Olivier. But the movie is sweet, and the supporting cast (a mix of character actors and real Special Olympians) are a hoot (particularly Bill Chott). I especially like that Special Olympics great Leonard Flowers (more-or-less) plays himself as a villain: try to imagine Michael Jordan doing that. Everybody's game, and seems to be having a good time. I did to. (Plus, the movie has Brian Cox, one of those actors who - like Donald Sutherland, Bob Ballaban and Abe Vigoda - makes things better just by showing up.)

4. Mother Night: I watched this on DVD this afternoon. I don't remember the Vonnegut novella on which this is based that well, but this seemed a fairly faithful rendition. Which is good and bad, since it means the movie reproduces everything that's beautiful, and maddening, about Vonnegut as a writer. Still, worth a view if you were ever a lonely, brainy teenager.

5. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Having seen this movie, I am now more convinced than ever that the Narnia books are essentially unfilmable. With the Lord of the Rings movies, Peter Jackson could adopt a pose of faux-realism: play everything straight and hope that some combination of the coherence of Tolkien's world, sophisticated CGI effects and the audience's suspension of disbelief will prevent the movie from collapsing on itself. But how do you play the White Witch straight? Or the talking animals? Or Father Christmas? Plus, when all your leads are children, you're walking a dramaturgical tightrope. That said, it's not a bad movie. Mr. Tumnus and the Beavers work quite well (though as the Mansfield Fox I was offended that Mr. Fox looked very un-vulpine - for shame!).

6. Fun with Dick and Jane: I would rather this movie had been an ambitious failure, like The Cable Guy or And God Spoke...; instead it's just a competently made, mealy-mouthed mediocrity, not funny, not daring, neither realistic nor fanciful, neither topical nor archetypical. (The film, you can see, has brought out my inner Revelations 3:16.) Also: Fun... reportedly cost $100 million to make. Where in the world did the money go? This isn't exactly a movie laden with CGI, or elaborate action sequences, or casts of thousands. Even if you told me they paid Jim Carrey $50 million for his starring turn, I'd still be at a loss to explain how they dropped $100 million on this mess. Ahh, well... such is life.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that the above is an amazing exercise in navel-gazing, even for a blog. 1,000 apologies to everyone who slogged through it despite not really caring what movies I've been watching, or what I think of them. I'll try to keep subsequent posts on subjects of more general interest.