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William C. Altreuter
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Saturday, May 30, 2015

The only U2 album I own is the one Apple put on my iPhone. I don't even have any other U2 songs. I am pretty sure that if I've ever listened to any U2 album straight through it would only have been once. I have seen them in concert. So much of pop culture is when you come to it, and U2 appeared at exactly the moment when I'd lost interest in the kind of arena rock that they have, I think, always been interested in making. When Boy was released in 1980 I was deeply engaged with punk, and although that record was somewhat punk rock or New Wave associated it sure didn't sound like The Clash. And there-- right there, at the end of that last sentence, lies the heart of my U2 problem. In 1980 The Clash were "The Only Band That Matters", a slogan derived from The Rolling Stones' self-annotation as the "World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band". U2, in their grandiose Irish way, set out to secure some amalgam of those designations for themselves. As Robert Christgau said in his review of Frankie Goes to Hollywood (remember them?) hype is "almost as intrinsic to rock and roll as" guitar, and in fairness U2 is as guitar a band as it is a hype. Here's the thing, though: both The Clash and the Stones earned their sobriquets. U2 merely aspires to them. In a way it's like Norman Mailer's striving to be Hemingway or Tolstoy. It would be one thing to work towards that, but it is another altogether to say it out loud. If I am being completely fair, I have to admit that the band seems to be actually engaged with its social mission, although I am am also put out by the way they go about it. Matthew 6:5, you know? Still, if hype is one of your main tools, then every problem-- hunger, third world debt, AIDS-- looks like something hype can address. You go to your two tool toolbox, pick up a guitar solo, say, "Nah," and then pick up hype. "That's the ticket," you say, and then you visit Jessie Helms to talk about Africa.

I will close with this: my customary way of listening to music when I'm in the car is to put my phone on 'Shuffle Songs', and every now and then one of the Songs of Innocence tunes pops up. When I'm caught unaware like that it seems to me that they aren't bad. Maybe U2 is onto something. They are obviously trying, so I guess I owe them an occasional attempt at listening.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Here's a good essay on the evolution of American music, hidden under a stupid headline: For Your (Re)Consideration: Is The Who Better Than The Beatles?.

I suppose there are different metrics to make this sort of evaluation; and I question whether it should be "are" instead of "is" (or for that matter, whether the question should be put in the past tense.) For the time being I will say only this: it seems to me that there are about as many meh Beatles songs as there are really great Who songs. (Oh, "Blue Jay Way". How useful you are in discussions of this sort.) It seems to me that there are about twice as many great Beatles albums as there are great Who albums, and I think I am being generous there. (Who's Next is indisputably great, a record that stands with anyone's music. After that I suppose Sell Out-- perhaps The Who's Magical Mystery Tour. And Live At Leeds is pretty great.)

Think of it this way: The Beatles are in all post-Beatles rock and roll DNA. The Who were likewise influential, but their influence was more pernicious. The Who brought us the rock opera and its attendant bloat. I don't know if I will ever get over The Who ruining The Kinks. The only real difference between The Who and The Kinks is that Tommy and Quadrophenia  are better records than Schoolboys in Disgrace or Preservation Acts One and Two. In fact, I'd put it to you that The Kinks win in a head-to-head evaluation with The Who-- except maybe but for Who's Next. I don't think there is anything in The Kink's catalog that can match Who's Next.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thoughts on my skill set, via Futility Closet:
Aristippus passed Diogenes as he was washing lentils.
He said, “If you could but learn to flatter the king, you would not have to live on lentils.”
Diogenes said, “And if you could learn to live on lentils, you would not have to flatter the king.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bernie Sanders is polling pretty much where all the lunatics who are running for the Republican nomination are polling, but all of Sanders' coverage talks about how he is a long shot, or a dark horse. I suppose that's true, even though none of the coverage of Marco Rubino, or Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum or Mike Huckabee or Chris Christie or George Pataki or Rand Paul dwells on how absurd their nomination would be. (Jeb Bush gets a pass on this- presumably because however horrible to contemplate a third Bush candidacy is, he is nevertheless as plausible a candidate as the rest of his family was.) Me? I'm voting for Bernie. As a responsible liberal and a proud son of the City of Homes and Churches myself I see it as my duty to vote for the most progressive candidate on the board. I'll get around to voting for Hillary "Scoop Jackson in a Skirt" Clinton when the time comes, but for now, I find Sanders' brand the most appealing.

In the meanwhile, wouldn't it be refreshing if political coverage told us more about what everyone proposes to do, and what the effects of their proposals might look like? All of the Republicans, for example, steadfastly duck when asked about how the US should be dealing with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-- a situation, it should be noted, that arose because the last Republican President decided that breaking Iraq would be a swell idea. Or, hey, since they all want the ACA repealed what do they propose to do about healthcare going forward? Climate change-- let's see a show of hands about what we need to do there? (My thought? Start spending some coin on infrastructure, because it's going to start getting wet.)

As is his habit, Charley Pierce nails it:
There is nothing extreme about wanting to stop the country's headlong rush to oligarchy, or about wanting to reverse Citizens United, or, if we take the entire world as our context, about wanting to provide free college tuition. Those stoners who run the Symbionese Liberation Republic of Germany adopted that policy over a year ago.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I'm just going to throw this out there, and think about it a bit more before I write about it more. One of the things that vexes me about the current state of our glamor profession is the undercurrent on anti-intellectualism that seems to run through it. Time was that merely being admitted to law school required a pretty solid academic record as an undergraduate, and it should go without saying that one of the things that is supposed to distinguish lawyers from laypeople is that we belong to one of the so called "learned professions". The ground has shifted somewhat-- nationally law schools operate on a more or less open admissions basis, but even so I find myself constantly encountering lawyers who pretend that they have vocabularies that wouldn't register on the SAT; and lawyers who say things like, "My kid is really smart-- too smart to be a lawyer." Few of the lawyers I encounter can tell you much about the law outside of the particular area they practice in, and even then lots of the lawyers I talk to know shockingly little about how the law in their area came to evolve into its current state. Some of this is, I think, selection bias. Most of the lawyers I know are trial lawyers, and they may be concealing their erudition in order to present a just folks veneer to juries, but it troubles me. The best lawyers I've known read a lot, and thought a lot, and wrote a lot. The best lawyers I've known liked talking about the law. It really bothers me that so much of the discourse I encounter is on the level of plumbers discussing drains, and I think that part of the reason for this is because law schools don't sufficiently emphasize the academic aspects of the work we do. Part of that may have to do with supply and demand-- students want to learn about the craft, and care less about the background, and I get that. I don't like it, but I get it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

I'm starting to outline a law school course which I'm tentatively calling "Civil Practice". The idea is that it will be a sort of omnibus practice course, which will include elements of New York Practice-- a subject dear to me- along with exercises in some of the more or less untaught lawyer skills. Client counseling skills, negotiation, and some other things. What other things would Outside Counsel readers suggest?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oh, and before I forget, so long B.B. King. I'm pretty sure it would be impossible to overstate his
importance to music, or to American culture. He ranks with Count Basie, and Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington-- all giants, and all essential to American music. These days we all have our music in different formats, and play it on different devices, but if there is no B.B. King accessible to you at all times your music collection is incomplete and you need to fix that.

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