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William C. Altreuter
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Arguments about who should be canonized are even sillier than arguments about Halls of Fame, but that doesn't stop people from having them. Charley Pierce makes a couple of good points here. I agree that JPII absolutely had more to do with the end of the Cold War than did Ronald Reagan, and I likewise agree that JPII's papacy was marked by a clerical sex abuse scandal which may yet bring down the institution. One would think that the threshold for sainthood would be higher.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

We are pretty solidly Team Cat at Big Pink. I like dogs, and would sort of like to have a dog, but there would have to be some pretty big changes in the way that we live to accommodate a dog, and I just don't see it happening. The cats are amusing, and although we strive to keep from anthropomorphizing them they interact with us in ways that are pleasing and that might be taken as indicia of affection. Who can say? Cats are inscrutable, and scientific attempts to understand cat perception frequently end hilariously with the cat declining to participate.


Monday, April 21, 2014

A. started listening to the audiobook of The Goldfinch on a trip I wasn't on, but correctly realized
that it would be something I'd enjoy. As a result I came in late, but it is absolutely a novel I will be going back to. I've been thinking about how I experience audiobooks differently from the printed word, and-- a parallel thought, I suppose, about how my smartphone changes the way I read and experience books as well. One way that the smartphone experience enhances my reading is that I can listen to whatever music the characters refer to or listen too. I can bring up photographs of what's being described if it is unfamiliar. I can look up words I don't know, or get a quick background on historical facts whith which I am unfamiliar or vague. It's all at my fingertips.

The Goldfinch is, inter alia about the way we experience art, and someone has created a helpful page which shows all, or mostly all, of the artworks referenced in the novel.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Some states import federal dollars, others export them in the form of taxes. There's a cool interactive map here.
I thought about this last weekend while admiring the very handsome bridge over the Mississippi in Cape Giradeau:

Isn't that a honey? Wouldn't you like a swell bridge like that over the Niagara River? Well, too bad. I just put a picture up so that those Outside Counsel readers who live in the Empire State but are not fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to have visited Cape can see how federalism works.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Gabriel García Márquez dead. The world just got a little less magical.

The case against my friend Lawrence Brose now moves into the sentencing phase, which means that it is far from over. This, in turn, means that Brose is still not really able to comment-- but I still can, and have, and will.

First of all, this piece by News 4 Buffalo reporter Elysia Rodriquez, is the most balanced and fair coverage the case has received anywhere. The appalling lynch mob reporting by the Buffalo News up to now was one of the reasons I became as involved in this matter as I did in the first place. With several others we determined that an informal 'truth squad' was necessary to counter the poison in the atmosphere.
 Second, what is the take-away from the plea? This is a complicated question, but anyone who thinks to ask it should know several things. Six years of a legal battle is nothing like an ordinary plea. The defense was pitched, and expensive. My estimate is that there was at least another year of expensive legal knife fighting to go before trial. What changed was that the US Attorney's office proposed a plea. This is rare. Typically DOJ will accept guilty pleas to the top count of the indictment-- the most serious charge. In this instance the charge was reduced, from 18 USC § 1466A Obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children, to18 USC § 1462- Obscenity. The superseding instrument referenced "viewing" a single image, instead 'possessing" over a thousand referenced in the original indictment. What happened? It seems pretty clear to me that the US Attorney's office acknowledged the weakness of its case, and that Lawrence, with some space between his back and the wall for the first time in six years, elected to move forward with his life, away from crippling legal fees and toxic accusations, and back to making art and being a positive force in the Western New York arts community. Trial lawyers all know that litigation is something that you do until the escalation reaches the point of irrationality. When a rational choice presents itself, rational persons accept it. This plea means that Lawrence will not be tagged as a sex offender (anyone who knows him will realize what a grotesque thing that would have been). The downside risk of sentencing is substantially mitigated, and as part of the agreement the prosecution has agreed that it will not oppose a "non-guidelines" sentence-- something that is even more unusual than an agreement to accept a plea to a reduced charge.

Finally, a thought about the process. One of the things that I've noticed as this matter ground on was how surprised many of Lawrence's friends were by the grueling quality of a criminal prosecution. The right against self-incrimination means that a defendant has to expect that anything he says to anyone turns that person into a potential witness in the case against him, and as a result the very people one might turn to for emotional support are effectively pushed away at the exact moment when sharing a confidence in exchange for emotional support is the most important thing in the life of the accused. It is alienating, and exhausting, and isolating; and the prosecution knows this and exploits it. The people who have stood with Lawrence have my respect-- it isn't easy to take a thing like this on faith. It is particularly difficult, I think, when the process is so unfamiliar. We think we know about how the criminal justice system works, but a case like this takes a lot longer than 43 minutes with time out for commercials. The prosecution of Lawrence Brose is being carried out in our name-- it is literally The United States of America vs. Lawrence Brose. The most powerful nation in the world against a solitary artist, possessed of pretty much all of the resources that you'd expect an experimental filmmaker would have. We should, as a community, be better aware of the other things that are being done in our name, and we ought to be calling for greater accountability and transparency.

I suppose one of the points of having a Hall of Fame is so that people can have discussions about who should or shouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. (Discussions about whether there should even be a Hall of Fame seem to be largely confined to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.) Something about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that has bugged me for a while is why Bob Welch was not inducted with Fleetwood Mac. All of the other members of the band were inducted-- but Welch, who was the guitarist, songwriter and vocalist for the band in the period when it transitioned from Brit Blues to LA Pop was locked out. Are the four sides the band recorded with Welch their best work? I'd say Future Games, Bare Trees, PenguinMystery to Me, and Heros Are hard to Find are an important piece of the band's output. Christgau gives Games, Trees, Penguin and Mystery each a B+, which seems fair. Heros gets a B-, and I'd say that's about right as well. (It was, however, their first US Top 40 album.) Back then every hip dorm room had a copy of at least one of these: usually Bare Trees or Mystery to Me. It is certainly worth noting that the band kept rolling during this period-- the personnel changes that it went through would have scuttled most other acts. (It was a good time for bands like this, which were allowed to keep making records even without scoring a major hit. As with movies the age of the blockbuster would soon arrive. Ironically, the Mac would be one of the acts that brought about the demise of the mid-list band.) When Welch left the band they were on strong enough terms that Fleetwood, Chrisine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham played on the re-make of "Sentimental Lady" in 1974. Per Wikipedia, in 1978, Welch, Fleetwood and the McVies had signed a contract with Warner Bros. agreeing to an equal share of all royalties from their Fleetwood Mac albums. Welch alleged that the other three  had subsequently struck various deals with Warner Bros. that gave them higher royalty rates, and had failed to inform him of the new, higher royalty rate, thus depriving him of his fair share of royalties. He sued, and the matter was ultimately settled, but during the pendency of the law suit he wasn't in direct communication with Fleetwood. In other words, an important member of one of the most disfunctional bands in the world got screwed over for an honor because he was getting screwed over on his royalties.

It would be fun to locate the court file on Welch v. Fleetwood, and it would be even more fun to put together a casebook for a class on Rock and Roll Litigation. The nitty-gritty of how bands are organized and managed is something I'd love to devote some time to.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

It's better to bend than to break. Everything I have written about the prosecution of Lawrence Brose is still true, including the fact that the images the government went looking for on his computer were never found. Today he entered a plead to the lesser charge of Obscenity-- 18 USC § 1462. It was the smart thing to do-- the essentially limitless resources of the US Attorney's Office had made fighting any longer an impossibility. His Legal Defense Fund can be accessed here. It is a sad commentary that the US Attorney's Office for the Western District of New York sees fit to target artists. It's all done in our name, and that's why it's important to pay attention.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

To the Show Me State over the weekend to visit the Smarts. Cape Girardeau, on the banks of the Mississippi, is home to South East Missouri State, where Mrs. Smart, as I may have mentioned, is employed as a librarian. It's a quaint little town, population a hair shy of 30k.
There isn't much else around, so the university and the federal district courthouse (named for Rush Limbaugh's father) make it a regional center. I like college campuses. All of them manage to have something special, and this one's claim on my attention is that it houses one of the largest collections of William Faulkner manuscripts and Faulkneria. Got to see his typewriter, which is pretty much exactly the kind of thing that I love to visit.

 We also got a bit of a hike in at Trail Of Tears State Park, along the ridge above the river. In addition to Southerners, Missouri is full of ticks, so we had to be careful to check ourselves and the dog afterwards to be sure that we didn't pick up any blood sucking pests. You can catch Republicanism that way, and the ticks are also vectors for disease.

Further notes. Man, there is more Ohio than anybody needs. The first time I saw a road sign for  Ashtabula the Dylanologist in me thrilled-- obscure place names are part of the fun of Dylan after all, and it's a little surprising that he hasn't name checked Cape Girardeau. Now Ashtabula is just a sign along the road that tells me I am further away from where I belong-- and closer to the real America that gives me the yips.

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