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Monday, March 23, 2015

My sister-in-law's wedding conflicted with the Utica Boilermaker last year, so I missed it for only the second time in, I think, 14 years. The wedding was fun, but this year the race went to a registration system that gave a preference to participants from the previous year-- and last year registration closed in two hours. With CLA back on this side of the Northern Hemisphere we both wanted to run it-- ideally it  is the center of my summer. I arranged my Saturday to be near a computer at noon when the registration went live, and we are both in. So now I have that to look forward to, and I'm really happy about that.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

It was kinda cool to have the University at Buffalo in the NCAA Tournament-- the first time a school I have a relationship with has been. Now, about those uniforms.... Look, UB is the flagship university of the State University of New York, but our brand isn't New York, it's Buffalo. This is something that needs to be fixed.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Although it is tempting to get all Groucho Marx about learning my Martindale-Hubbell rating instead I will thank the colleagues who took the time to fill out the survey.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The story of the making of Blood on the Tracks is pretty well chewed at this point: Dylan recorded most of the material that eventually made it on to the album in New York with the same session guys who did the music for Deliverance, then went home to Minnesota for Christmas. He played the demo for his brother, who thought it lacked spark, so Bob re-did all or most of it using local musicians. Over the years songs from the New York sessions have emerged on various compilations, and for the most part I'd have to say that Bob Dylan's brother made the right call. The Blood on the Tracks that we ultimately got is the best Blood on the Tracks. The New York session versions are interesting-- Dylan made some interesting changes in lyrics, and "Tangled Up In Blue", a song that plays a lot with point of view, is particularly fun to compare and contrast. One song that I had not heard the New York version of until just now has been "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts", a long shaggy dog story that I have always loved. Here it is. The most notable change is  the tempo-- in the St Paul version it rollicks along, but in New York, for what ever reason, it kinda drags. It does, however, feature the 'lost' verse that Joan Baez sings: "Lilly had her arms around the man she dearly loved to touch/She forgot all about the man she hated, who hounded her so much." For me it adds little: the official version seems to have more dramatic tension at that point in the song.

Friday, March 13, 2015

I do not think I could do capital defense. I am unalterably opposed to the death penalty, and I am pretty sure of my abilities as an advocate, but as it is I identify more with my clients than I should-- in a death penalty situation the margin for error is too small for me to feel comfortable. That doesn't mean I can't appreciate the strategy of the defense team in the Tsarnaev case. They say that the best way to win a capital case is to never let it go to trial. With that option closed, Judy Clarke, David Bruck, and Miriam Conrad are doing they only thing they can do: accepting responsibility and arguing for mercy. You'd be surprised at how effective that can be. When you are dead on liability in my kind of litigation you buy a lot of credibility by acknowledging it, and credibility is the coin of the realm in from of a jury.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I'm looking forward to LCA's Senior Thesis dance performance.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Two things that seem to me to be often overlooked about Bob Dylan come into focus for me on Lost on the River/The New Basement Tapes. The set itself, produced by T-Bone Burnett, consists of Basement Tapes-era Dylan lyrics for which music has been written by Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Marcus Mumford, Jim James and Taylor Goldsmith, who perform as a band. The first point is that Dylan himself has collaborated with others more frequently than is generally assumed; the second point is that Dylan's reputation for writing great melodies is nearly completely overshadowed by his skills as a lyricist. Dylan himself has bemoaned the latter point, noting in Chronicles that Duane Eddy recorded an album of guitar instrumentals of Dylan songs. Eddy was far from the only one, of course, but his record is pretty terrific. In fact, with the notable exception of his work with The Band, in general when Dylan collaborates with others it is usually with another lyricist. Jacques Levy (“First of all, it got me a little nervous. I said to him — and it was very funny at the time, though I don’t know how funny it will be now — I said: ‘You know, I write the lyrics; I don’t write the music.’ … It never dawned on me that he was going to ask me to write lyrics for him.”), and Robert Hunter being the most prominent examples.* So what does Lost on the River sound like? Well, it doesn't sound much like a Bob Dylan record, but that's fine. It seems to cohere as an album, which tells us that Burnett's production counted a great deal, although I wish the voices worked together better. A big reason the Traveling Wilburys recordings were fun was precisely because the singers didn't sound homogenous-- it would have been fun to have more of that, although I will note that Giddens comes through fine. What we really get here are songs that are sung by each of the principals that sound like they'd fit just fine on a personal project from each of the principals. Not that there's anything wrong with more Rhiannon Giddens, and I'm fine with more songs that sound like Dawes, or My Morning Jacket as well. The Marcus Mumford numbers are forcing me to concede that Mumford & Sons are better than my inner traditionalist snob would want to concede: the Dylan/Mumford/Goldsmith "Kansas City" (lot of songs about Missouri on this record) is a highlight.What this doesn't sound like is a Bob Dylan project. I've been listening to it for a couple of days and I haven't yet heard the sort of Dylanesque turn of phrase that characterizes great Dylan lyrics. These are good songs, but that lyrical spark isn't there.  Is it a good listen? Sure it is-- it almost couldn't help but be, and a good thing too. Ultimately it has to stand or fall on its own merits, otherwise it would just be an odd gimmick. It's better than that-- in it's way it would be an interesting companion on a mix tape featuring Peter, Paul and Mary singing"Too Much of Nothing", Ian & Sylvia, on "Tears of Rage", (or"Quinn the Eskimo" and "This Wheel's on Fire"), Manfred Mann on "The Mighty Quinn", Fairport Convention covering "Million Dollar Bash",  Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity doing "This Wheel's on Fire" and "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" by the Byrds
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* Of course, there are counter-examples. Rick Danko worked up tunes to Dylan lyrics, and it seems probable that Robbie Robertson did too, even where not credited.

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