Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Something in me really wants both "The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia" and "Bob Dylan: The Essential Interviews", but I don't expect I'll buy either. This review tempts me, though. How could anybody resist anecdotage like Dylan telling Nate Hentoff: “I don’t think jazz has ever appealed to the younger generation, anyway, I don’t really know who this younger generation is. I don’t think they could get into a jazz club anyway. But jazz is hard to follow; I mean you actually have to like jazz to follow it; and my motto is, never follow anything. I don’t know what the motto of the younger generation is, but I would think they’d have to follow their parents. I mean, what would some parent say to his kid if the kid came home with a glass eye, a Charlie Mingus record and a pocketful of feathers? He’d say, ‘Who are you following?’ And the poor kid would have to stand there with water in his shoes, a bow tie on his ear and soot pouring out of his belly button and say, ‘Jazz. Father, I’ve been following jazz.’ And his father would probably say, ‘Get a broom and clean up all that soot before you go to sleep.’ Then the kid’s mother would tell her friends, ‘Our little Donald, he’s part of the younger generation, you know.’”

I mean, you can hear him saying it, can't you?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A perfect ode to one of my many guilty pleasures, from Roadfood:

"We don’t recommend you pay much attention to the menu at breakfast time, because there is one and only one dish to know about: corned beef hash. This is the real thing, a coarse-cut melange of spicy beef shreds and nuggets of potato cooked on the griddle until a web of crust begins to envelop the tender insides. If you ask, the grill man will cook the hash until it is brittle crisp nearly all the way through, which is a great idea if textural excitement supercedes succulence in your hierarchy of culinary pleasure; but we personally enjoy it the regular way: forkfuls of corned beef that are brick-red and moist, their pickly zest balanced perfectly by the soft pieces of potato."

To the screening of "Portraits of Main Street" last night, the Squeaky Wheel youth media project that had 17 students from Western New York high schools making documentaries about Buffalo. It was terrific to see the theater filled with family and friends of the filmmakers, and it was encouraging to hear the students talk about their optimism for Buffalo. The documentaries were pretty clear-eyed, I thought, but far from despairing. There seemed to be a fair number of the group who plan on continuing to work in film and video: what they may not realize is that their commitment to creativity is perhaps the most significant sign of health Buffalo could manifest.

The films themselves were well put-together, and displayed a level of craft that demonstrated how well the Squeaky staff had done their work. These kids learned a lot about making movies. A five to seven minute documentary is a pretty compressed form, but each of the films had an arc, and a point of view. The filmmakers weren't afraid to take on challenging subjects, and brought a sense of humor to the work as well.

A funny little thrill for me came at the end, when I saw my name in the credit crawl. My involvement with the project was strictly in the capacity of board member of the sponsoring organization, of course, but it was pretty cool to see anyway.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Years ago The Atlantic used to have a feature about one shot encounters between historic or literary figures. They were usually anticlimactic, which I guess was sort of the point, but I enjoyed reading them, even though I can't think of a particular example right at the moment. I was reminded of this by "Groucho and Tom" (via Making Light):

What a brilliant and rollicking dinner —
had only J. Alfred Prufrock and Rufus T. Firefly
arrived. But now, the after-dinner cheese
removed, only two old men are here, to face
each other, across a table. Time
for the living room, to linger
over a vintage port. They talk
of weather, and cats, and good cigars . . .
well into the pleasing night.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Hon. George Bundy Smith's term on New York's Court of Appeals is up. He is 69 years old-- a year away from the mandatory retirement age-- and he has applied for reappointment. The system for appointing judges to the Court of Appeals-- New York's highest court-- is pretty good. A panel reviews the applicants, then presents a list to the governor, who nominates a candidate. The state senate must then approve the governor's nomination. Judge Bundy Smith has been a pretty good judge on a pretty good bench, and I can see why he might want to stay for another year, but there is exactly no chance that George Pataki will re-appoint him. The effect of re-appointment would be to hand a Court of Appeals seat over to whoever is elected governor next year. That's probably going to be Elliot Spitzer, a Democrat.

This leaves Pataki in an awkward spot. Judge Bundy Smith is the only African American on the Court of Appeals. Governor Pataki, in a fit of optimism matched perhaps only by the ant that wanted to move the rubber tree plant, thinks he'd be a good Republican presidential nominee. How he fills this opening could become a big issue. Around here, in Western New York, the assumption has been that the next time a Court of Appeals opening came along the nod would go to the Presiding Judge of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, the Hon. Eugene Pigott. Actually, a lot of people, myself included, thought the last opening should have been his. At Outside Counsel we are fans of Judge Pigott, and make no secret of it. He is as smart as can be, which is always nice in a judge, but more importantly he is possessed of the two other qualities that I believe make for an outstanding jurist: a first rate temperament and a genuine concern for doing justice. Although I have known him a long time and consider him a friend, I really don't have a very clear picture of where he is ideologically, except that I think he is probably more conservative than people generally assume. Over the years that I have known him we have, as people who love the law do, discussed the law frequently. Even so, I have no idea how he feels about exclusionary rules, for example-- suddenly a very fashionable issue. I suspect that he'd be open to argument, because I believe he approaches things with an open mind. I would bet money that he'd be more conservative than Judge Bundy Smith. Judge Pigott would also restore some regional balance to the Court of Appeals-- but I really doubt that he will get tapped this time, either.

I don't know if there is a conservative African-American out there that Pataki could pick, but none come to my mind. My hunch is that he'll do what Republicans usually do under these circumstances and try to find a Hispanic candidate-- but in the past he's shown that racial considerations don't always weigh that heavily with him. Indeed, he passed over a senior sitting African-American judge when he appointed Judge Piggot P.J..

In the narrative of the Law, the judges are the protagonists-- even though the lawyers think we are. I've heard that when Judge Wesley left the Court of Appeals to go on the Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit there was some good natured banter among the appellate court judges in New York as to whether it was a lateral move or a step down. In terms of autonomy I'd say that federal district court judges are probably as close as it gets to being monarchs-- but being a judge on the highest court of a state has got to run a pretty close second. (The notion that Circuit Court judges have a great deal of power is the flaw in Stephen Carter's otherwise good novel, "The Emperor of Ocean Park".) It would be nice to see Judge Piggot in the room where Learned Hand and Benjaman Cardozo once sat.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Really, the only point I had about CLA's prom was that she looked absolutely stunning, but she told me that this was insufficient. "Lame," was the word she used, and although I'd have said "anodyne", I suppose she has a point. Reflecting on the event, it seems to me that one of the reasons Prom was a low key (for me) was that it was not a Big Date. She went with a group of friends, and had a fine time, and I was comfortable in the notion that she is a sensible person who is less hell-bent on being a grownup than I was at the same age. This is due in part, I think, to the fact that we got all of that drama out of the way earlier in the course of the year, but it is nevertheless satisfying. Of course the great frustration of being a parent is knowing that your child thinks you are a hopeless, creaking antique without a clue about how things are today, and therefore essentially incapable of rending any meaningful advice. We know this because we remember it, but the things we wish we'd been told (or the things we wish we'd heard, more likely) fall into the chasm of years, and we are left standing on the far side, waiving our arms foolishly.

But, see, that wasn't how CLA's prom was for me. She had a great looking dress, and when I asked people from Spree about where she should go to get her hair done, or what sort of makeup she should use we got excellent, useful advice, and the drama just wasn't there. I had nothing to complain about, and I was fine with that. A. and I went out to dinner, and all was serene. I suppose I could take the opportunity to muse on what a fine parenting job produced this result, but that would amount to boasting about luck, which is an unattractive thing to do. Similarly, gloating about the fact that I was correct about the erstwhile beaux would have an "I told you so," quality, and I really ought to rise above it. Instead, another picture of CLA, because she really did look great, and because I have toppled into self-parody and need an exit strategy.

Monday, June 19, 2006

CLA looked lovely for her prom Friday. Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 16, 2006

I've posted a set of pix from LCA's closing demonstration at flickr. She is off somewhere in the middle of the state dancing this weekend, gypsy that she is. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

EGA writes: "It was hard to leave Luguhu, it really was. 'Life is made up of meetings and partings; that is the way of it,' I said to myself in the car, trying not to cry. "That's awfully good - what is that from?" A brief rummage through the filing cabinets of my mind revealed that I was comforting myself with quotes from Kermit the Frog in the Muppet Christmas Carol. I'm okay with that, though." The entire post is terrific, as usual. In Slate today Emily Yoffe writes about being a parent and observes, "It all goes so fast. When our daughter turned 6, my husband and I realized with a pang that we were already one-third of the way through the time she would live with us." Having EGA in China these past months has underscored this notion for me in ways that I could not have imagined, perhaps because it is so difficult for me to imagine what her life must be like from moment to moment where she is. I'm sure none of us would have imagined that she would find a moment of trancendent happiness in rural China-- who would have even thought to look in a place like that? Still, that's how being happy often is: it creeps up on you.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I thought I'd cross-train Sunday, so I got on my bike and rode to the river. For variety, I went over the rail bridge, then down to Ferry, along Niagara, over the trail that leads to Porter, then through LaSalle Park. I continued past the Largest Inland Naval Park in the Whole World, then into the Cobblestone District. The demolition of the HO Oats elevator was ongoing, a mobile crane with a weight shaped like an inverted "U" clanging into the concrete walls. They are working from what I think of as the back-- you can't see the demolition from the Skyway-- and I assume this is deliberate. The area is fenced off, with big purple signs that announce that this is sovereign territory. The mast of the crane flies a Seneca flag, and the whole thing looked to me like a big extended middle finger. "Our sovereign territory. Not your history. Our sovereign territory, to do with as we please."

I can't say that the elevators ever seemed like more than a monument to a bygone moment in the history of the city-- they outlived their usefulness, and were not especially attractive. Even so, they were interesting looking, which is more, I expect, than we will be able to say about the casino.

Everybody talks about this location as the Cobblestone District, by the way, and that is accurate enough, but it didn't close the circle for me. Where this actually is located is next to the Perry Street projects. People are often surprised that I am unsympathetic to Native Americans, but concerned and angry about the treatment that African Americans receive in our society. If this seems contradictory, perhaps it is: Europeans have screwed everyone they could for all of their history, but I'd have to say that if you'd like to see a visible example of how the North American native population got a better shake than the people that were brought here as property you could do worse than to hustle down to the corner of Perry and Marvin. On the one side there is a section of the City of Buffalo that has been ceded to a group that is acknowledged as sovereign. On the other is some of the most dismal, poverty blighted public housing I've ever seen anywhere.

I finished off my demolition tour by going down to the Larkin site. All that remains of the Administration Building is a section of wall. I've driven by it-- it is next to the railroad bridge that goes over Swan Street-- but I'd never stood next to it; I'd assumed that it was a portion of the building itself, but it is not. It is a fence pier, I think the one shown in the bottom right of this photo. Then I rode home.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

I don't have all the Coltrane I'll ever need, or all the Billie Holiday either, so the Voice has provided a valuable service with these consumer guides. Sun Ra has always fallen into the "Subjects for Further Research" catigory for me: the sole side in my collection is called "Out There A Minute" and is all that. I suspect that the best approach with Mr. Ra would be to just buy what you see, and take your time getting into it.

"To say that other countries should emulate the Swedish social model is about as helpful as telling an average-looking person to look like a Swedish supermodel. There are special circumstances and a certain background that limit the ability to imitate. In the case of the supermodel, it is about genetics. In the context of economical and political models, it is about the historical and cultural background."

We spend a fair amount of time around here discusing the validity of social comparisons, particularly between the US and Sweden. One of the reasons that these sorts of comparisons can be so beguiling is that, as Americans, we know comparatively little about other places-- particularly their history. Sweden is a special case in our discussions, for several reasons, including the special insight that our adventure in the Swedish publishing industry gave us-- it's not that Swedish society has eliminated competition, the way a state-operated economy would. It is instead that the risk of failure and the possibility of outstanding success have been loped of the spectrum, leaving moderate prosperity at the middle as the sole remaining economic outcome. Of course, within moderate prosperity there is a fair amount of variation, but it is not hard to see how any entrepreneurial impulse might be pretty readily quashed. (Via Flutterby.) The point of the cited article seems to be that the sort of neo-liberal welfare state that Sweden and most of Europe enjoy cannot be sustained. I'm not so sure that this is true.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

My personal list of top plays from the tournament, by the way: Any of the trys scored by Corretta-- when she busts loose, there is no way anyone can catch her. The tackle Maria Forte made when she came back in from her penalty-- I felt it where I was standing, eight feet away. And CLA's blocked kick. (I also liked several of Emma's runs.)

Monday, June 05, 2006

To Portland, Maine this past weekend for the Rugby National Invitation Tournament. An interesting experience, on many levels. Although I've been to many a sporting event to watch my daughters, this was the first time I'd traveled to such an event. It seemed like the thing to do, particularly because this was the Nationals, but it was not especially a bonding, father-daughter kind of thing. The parents rented a couple of big ol' Econoline vans, and the team road in those, with the windows appropriately decorated with "CHS NYS Champions Next Stop Portland". Parents drove separately. I ended up lucky, with a guy whose thinking about a lot of the the things that I was thinking about-- issues that surfaced along the weekend, I suppose-- were similar to mine.

The emotional investment a lot of the parents had in their kids' sports was something to see, and it wasn't especially pretty. For the most part I thought the girls displayed excellent sportsmanship-- one of the things I like about rugby is that this seems to be an important part of the culture. It was not always that way on the sidelines, however, and that struck me funny. The only parent who'd played this sport was the coach, which means that he was the only one with a solid grasp of the nuances of the matches, but it is never cool to shout anything except encouragment in my book, and never, ever cool to bitch about the calls the official makes.

The event was scaled nicely-- big enough, but not too big, and it was fun to watch the athletes size each other up as they arrived at the gym for the registration and opening ceremonies-- I know our girls all thought the other teams would look like the Chicago Bears, and I am sure they were all relieved to see that everyone else were high school girls, just like them. Our motel was out by a big shopping Mall, but Scheherazade Fowler had been kind enough to give me a bit of a lowdown on things to do and see in Portland, so while everyone else went to the joints around the mall for dinner, I pulled CLA and her posse out of the pack, and we went and had fun in the Old Port part of town. It's a pretty little city, and it smells like a combination of the ocean and pine-- just beautiful. Some of the girls had SATs on Saturday morning, and I sensed an opportunity to do something helpful and self serving at the same time, so I volunteered to drive them to the school early. That way I was able get a run in, along the harbor. It rained buckets the entire weekend, and never harder than while I was running, but it was still good fun, and I felt better for having done something more athletic than just standing around getting wet. City Honors/Genesee lost the first game, but won the second (they lost the Sunday morning game as well), but they played well, I thought, and had a blast. I put up a flikr page here.. For the most part I found that talking to the other parents was less entertaining than watching the girls-- all of them mixed well, and danced together at the Saturday night picnic, so I took a lot of pictures. Parential conversation was too much about children, and took two tracks: I love my daughter, but she is spoiled; or, my daughter is the best ever. These are actually the same thing, of course. There may be qualities about these people that were interesting-- when I could get them off the subject they often did have things to say that were interesting-- but people who define themselves in terms of their children do not impress me as people who are doing either themselves or their children much of a favor. Posted by Picasa

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