Supreme Court takes a lot to say a little, a (non-geology) rock book, Timberwolves rebound (especially K-Love), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows leaks, sort of

by Mike Mullen

— In a great piece by an often-great SCOTUS correspondent, Adam Liptak of the New York Times writes about how the Supreme Court’s getting a little long in the pen. A couple of recent studies have found that the Roberts Court is writing longer, vaguer decisions, leaving judges in lower courts confused as to how they should follow precedent, and totally, like, bored by all this reading they have to do. Writes Liptak, “Brown v. Board of Education, the towering 1954 decision that held segregated public schools unconstitutional, managed to do its work in fewer than 4,000 words. When the Roberts court returned to just an aspect of the issue in 2007 in Parents Involved v. Seattle, it published some 47,000 words, enough to rival a short novel.” (By my own count, via Miscrosoft Word, Marbury v. Madison itself — that is, the decision which makes us care about any of the court’s other decisions since 1803 — comes in at only 4,543 words.) Another fascinating angle is the amount of variation in language and writing style, which, analyzed from decision-to-decision, suggest that some justices are leaving the writing up to their clerks, some of whom are just a couple years out of law school. On this count, former justice Sandra Day O’Connor came in worst, with the most variability among her decisions over the years. Maybe just O’Connor took John Riggins’ advice and finally “loosened up.”

— In a stunner, at least to me, former (and perhaps original) chick-rocker Patti Smith took home the National Book Award in the nonfiction category. Just to give some context here, the last few nonfiction prizes rewarded painstaking historical research into Cornelius Vanderbilt, Thomas Jefferson’s slave mistress Sally Hemings and her descendants, the CIA, and — that most-trendy topic — the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. This year, Smith’s memoir, “Just Kids,” beat out hard-hitters on North Korea and wide-ranging studies of war. I’ve not read the book, but, from HarperCollins, here’s a bit from the first page, writing about her friend and former lover, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe: “I was asleep when he died. I had called the hospital to say one more good night, but he had gone under, beneath layers of morphine.” Camus, Obama, Smith: learn your lessons, young writers. Whenever possible, begin your book with death.

— The Minnesota Timberwolves won a nail-biter last night, holding off the LA Clippers 113-111 after a Michael Beasley jumper with 2.3 seconds to go. After a terrible start, including a few humiliating losses at the hands of some of the league’s best teams, the Wolves record is now 4-9. Beasley put up 33 points, and Kevin Love continued his remarkable season with 24 points and 14 rebounds. At this early point in the season, Love is leading the NBA with 14.3 rebounds per game — way out in front of perennial rebound kings Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan. And, more importantly, he’s blogging! On, Love wrote about his historic night of 31 points and 31 rebounds against the Knicks. Apparently, Love was getting heckled by a Wolves fan all night, which set up an interesting moment after the game: “After I left the arena, I went out to grab a drink with a couple of my buddies at this place called the Loon Café—and who’s the first person I see when I walk into the bar? The same guy. The heckler. And I’m just like, “No. Way.” So he comes up to me and says, “Listen, Mr. Love, I’d just like to apologize.” (This is a grown man, by the way.) And I just kept saying, “You’re the guy! You’re the guy! You were heckling me the whole way! Did you see me at the end of the game?” He goes, “Yes. And I just wanna take back everything I said. We really believe in you. Do you mind taking a picture with us and signing a few autographs?” So I’m thinking, first of all, you wanted to trade me. You wanted me out of Minnesota. And now you want an autograph and a picture? But the guy was actually really friendly, and his friends were great. So we had fun with it.” It seems like both Kevin and his heckler took the high road on this one. Dammit, Minnesota. We’re so nice we can’t even execute a heckle-and-postgame-asskicking properly!

— Finally, the new Harry Potter flick hits theaters tomorrow. But part of it already hit the internet: the first 36 minutes apparently showed up for download via Bittorrent. A Warner Bros. statement on the leak said, “We are working actively to restrict and/or remove copies that may be available. Also, we are vigorously investigating this matter and will prosecute those involved to the full extent of the law.” Oh, come on. It’s the first 36 minutes — if anything, this is like an extended trailer for the movie, and will stop none of those little wizard kids from flocking to theaters like moths to a wand that glows after someone says something that sounds like Latin. This series has made billions of dollars, and the execs of Warner Bros. deserve virtually none of the credit. (‘I have an idea! Let’s make a movie out of the most popular book series of all time!” “Genius!”) Early reviews on RottenTomatoes have the movie well received, with an 81 percent positive rating, and 94 percent of respondents “want to see” the movie. (Boy, if you’re stopping in to a website to anonymously declare that you’re “not interested” in a movie… how thin is your schedule? How’s about you take the dog for a walk?) The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday writes, “rather than sheer spectacle or trickery, “Deathly Hallows – Part 1″ is memorable chiefly for its human drama, most of which is played out between Harry, Hermione and Ron as they wander a wintry landscape whose bleak contours fit the story’s dire emotional tone.” Our own critic, Andrew Penkalski, was a bit underwhelmed, asking, “If Harry, Ron and Hermione are supposed to be fighting tooth and nail against the magical end times, why do they seem to enter every moment of discovery with such apparent dimness and disinterest?” Oof. Watch it, Penkalski. If someone points a stick at you and begins to yell Latin-sounding stuff, for God’s sake, don’t try to fight back, just take to your broomstick and yell some other Latin-sounding stuff.