Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Filthy stuff

Yesterday, when driving back to Los Angeles from a meeting in Los Angeles, Iwas listening to oral arguments in the Supreme Court case of the City of Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, Inc. This case involved a challenge to a Los Angeles municipal code which required a "dispersion" of filthy establishments to avoid the adverse results suggested from a "landmark study" of a concentration of sleeze in certain locations. At issue was the constitutionality of an amendment to or revision of the original ordinance mandating that only one type of business could be contained in any one building. That is, "mega stores" featuring more than one filthy kind of product or service would not be permitted. You could not show--for a fee--filthy movies in the same location that offensive periodicals were sold. Neither could you offer a massage.

Asked by Justice Stevens if "there are a substantial number who are similar to the one that we're talking about today," the attorney for the city responded: "I won't use an adverb to describe the amount. There are some. I don't know if it's substantial or not." Then Chief Justice Rehnquist quickly set the record straight: "That's an adjective."

As naive academic coming from a rather sheltered background, I was unaware of the amount of filth that actually exists out there. My understanding had been that "arcades" are places where teenagers go to play video games. In this context, however, these are abominable destinations where people go to watch sleezy and sickening videos. On some of the machines there, one can watch replusive parts of up to sixty filthy recordings. One can also opt to watch one in its disgusting entirety. Ugh!

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