Category: Just for Fun


Church-owned Cows and Inflation

I recently taught Sherwood v. Walker, the famous case involving a Michigan cow named Rose 2nd of Aberlone, as well as a number of other mistake cases in contracts dealing with cows. I’ve got bovine jurisprudence on the mind. It seems that the same is true for Eugene Volokh, who recently noted a case involving a “church owned cow.” The cow in question was owned by the Mormon Church and seems to have negligently collided with a motorcycle. In the interests of extending our jurisprudential understanding of cows, I can’t resist adding another twist to the church-owned cow story.

The Mormon Church’s involvement in agriculture is a legacy of the nineteenth century practice of Mormons paying tithing in kind to the church. As a result of this practice, in the nineteenth century, the church acquired large herds of cattle as well as other food stuffs. It then issued so-called “tithing scrip,” which was in effect private currency. The holder of scrip could redeem it for foodstuffs, including beef, at church storehouses. The scrip then circulated as money, in effect providing liquidity to the perpetually cash starved economies of the Intermountain West in the nineteenth century. Because the currency was in effect backed by cows, however, it was subject to some odd monetary pressures. For example, when a particularly harsh winter killed off a large proportion of the church’s cattle herds, it was forced to reduce the purchasing power of tithing scrip at church storehouses because there simply wasn’t as much beef available as previously. The result was price inflation as the value of the scrip declined.

As part of its efforts to raise revenue during the Civil War, the U.S. government passed a series of banking acts designed to decrease government borrowing costs. All nationally chartered banks were required to hold their reserves in the form of treasury bonds, and non-federally chartered institutions were hit with a heavy tax on the notes that they issued. The effect was to slap a punitive tax on any bank depositor who did not loan his or her savings to the U.S. government. During the 1880s federal prosecutors in Utah decided that the various scrip-issuing bodies of the Mormon church were subject to this tax, and demanded decades of back taxes, eventually killing off the scrip and replacing it with currency issued by federally chartered banks.

Taxes. Regulation. Inflation. Cows. Some things never change.


A Little Literary Diversion

Compare and contrast is the name of the game today.

Openings are vital to a novel and maybe any writing. I was reading an older text, and it reminded me of another beautiful opening from an even older work. I thought I’d share short portions above the fold, to whet your appetite. Larger excerpts are below the fold for those who wish to see the full passages and revel in the glory of great writing. (For fun, you might try and guess the sources).

1st passage:
All the world was before me and every day was a holiday, so it did not seem important to which one of the world’s wildernesses I first should wander.

2nd passage:
Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.

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A Great Horn Section and Some Wild Clothes to Brighten Your Day

Most of the country is facing some rather grim weather. Classes have begun. Grades are in. The holidays are over. There is work to do. Many things may be getting you down. So I offer this tune as a small pick-me-up for those who may need it. If the music doesn’t work for you, perhaps the outfits and the early special effects will. Enjoy.


Sherlock Holmes and The Sparks

Here’s just a little free association for what I hope are ongoing happy holidays for everyone. Sherlock Holmes opens on Christmas Day and is a front runner for holiday films I want to see. I happen to think that Robert Downey Jr. is in a great groove. I loved his acting in Chaplin and am quite pleased to see that his career as bloomed. Whether Guy Ritchie can make this one good remains to be seen. My guess is that like Star Trek some annoying we-have-to-do-it allegedly new action sequences or martial arts inspired skills and fights will make their way into the series. As William Goldman noted, film is a business; idealized versions of a story don’t often work in that arena. So perhaps this potential nonsense is necessary.

As a fan of the original works, I am sure to be disappointed and think that House is a better modern version of Holmes than this film’s idea. But that is the fun of open culture. Folks get to play with types and see what works. Indeed, theorists can track the way in which Holmes is portrayed and examine how a given era sees the character (Check out the difference between Bogart’s 1941 Sam Spade and the earlier, 1931, version to get a sense of how much a character can morph; or think of the ever-changing, yet stable, James Bond. Les Liaisons Dangereuses provides another example. The Marquise de Merteuil is quite different in Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont).

Regardless of my concerns, there is a chance people will discover the original works and enjoy them as well (free at the link). Or maybe the film will introduce you to the Sparks, a band that I happen love for its lyrics which are rather good at poking at society by mixing cultural references into their music. For instance you might enjoy the song Mickey Mouse (I especially enjoy the introduction which discusses the mouse as a general matter but this version has better sound and some fun mashup). The song I Predict may seem too familiar to lawyers and law students with its refrain “Are My Sources Correct?”, but it also refers to transsexuals, Elvis, Lassie, Maxim’s, marketing, and the oddity of prediction in general. Cool Places seems to pick up on theme of society’s obsession with being, well, cool. And after the jump there, you can check out The Sparks and their comment on Sherlock Holmes. Believe it or not, the song is a love song of sorts (the ironic tone makes it hard to be a straight forward ballad). Here is a teaser

“Fog matters to you and me, but it can’t touch Sherlock Holmes
Dogs bark and he knows their breed
And knows where they went last night
Knows their masters too
Oh baby, hold me tight.

Just pretend I’m Sherlock Holmes.”

Who knows? Maybe The Sparks predicted what the film industry hopes happens with the film: millions will want to be (or be with) Sherlock Holmes (but as the song points out, they can’t be).

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Shame on the Brits!

By temperament, I am not a particularly passionate person. Every so often, however, the world throws up an event of such mindless horror that even phlegmatic me is roused to ire. Chris Lund points out such a horror in this post over at Prawfs. All I can say is, “What the hell are their Lordships thinking over at the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom?” Shame! Shame on you! Read More


A Little Los Lobos and Early Halloween

One of my best friends gave me the album Kiko by Los Lobos as a college graduation gift. I love the album to this day. The title track, Kiko and the Lavender Moon, is great. It always reminds me of old spooky cartoons from the Bugs Bunny era with the sheet-like ghosts drifting, floating, bobbing down the hall and inexorably coming towards your room. Enjoy.

Kiko And The Lavender Moon – Los Lobos

As general matter, although I cannot say I know all Los Lobos’s work, I love almost everything I do know. If you like the film, Bull Durham, the song during the fabricated rain out is “I Got Loaded” performed by Los Lobos. You may also want to check out an odd and, to me, creepy Sesame Street version of the song, Elmo and the Lavender Moon.


Because Sometimes You Need a Little Mental Vacation

As a way to get ready for the Brazil Olympics and as a little throw back for hipsters and neo-hipsters, enjoy:

The Girl From Ipanema – Stan Getz

I urge folks to discover or re-discover, Jobim, Getz, and Gilberto. Great stuff to get into another world of jazz and far away lands while staying right where you are.

For those into pop culture history, the song has tended to be an elevator music favorite. That version loses the magic of the original. That being said, The Blues Brothers juxtaposed the elevator version, which played as the heroes went up to pay off the tax debt, with complete mayhem descending on Chicago city government in great way. Mr. and Mrs. Smith riffed on this scene as those heroes also heard the song in an elevator before a final standoff. That standoff is an ode of sorts to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid right down to a small shack for cover against horrible odds. One was made recently; one in the 1970s. Guess which one has the more poignant ending?