Monday, June 30, 2008


It is said that you first confront your own mortality when a parent dies. Thankfully, my actual parents are very much alive, but with George Carlin's passing last week, the Holy Trinity of my youth has lost its final member. Carlin, Johnny Carson, and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.--if I needed to know what was worth thinking about and what to think about it, these were the guys to start with.

I could not have been more than 10 years old when my father took me down to the used record store to buy my first Carlin LP. I memorized Toledo Window Box within days, even though, in retrospect, I must have understood no more than half its content. I was like the British audience hearing Bob Hope's "motel" punchline--they didn't know what a motel was, but they laughed because the joke was over and they knew Bob Hope was funny. I knew Carlin was funny because of what he said about God, farts, and urinals; if I didn't know what he meant by "Ho Chi Minh Trail" or "bong", I knew the material was good enough to land me in the Principal's office when I repeated it, and that one day I would figure out why.

Years later in Constitutional Law, we read Federal Communications Commission v. Pacifica Foundation. I concluded that ten year old boys can have two types of fathers in this world, and Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words" routine provides the litmus test. Some fathers file FCC complaints when their sons hear it on the radio; some fathers buy their sons the album. I was fortunate enough to have the latter, and the person I am today is in no small measure the result.


  1. True Prepuce, dirty words come to mind when I think of you. Where's the coverage of Judge Kozinski's personal website?

  2. A couple of weeks late, but still, this post has to be one of the best Father's Day tributes ever. Now, go buy your son Bill Maher's DVD collection -- or at download the podcast for him to listen to in nine years or so.


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