Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, July 30, 2007

In Dana Point, California for the American Trucking Association's meeting (I know, it's a whirligig existence, init?). The luncheon speaker today was Howard Fineman, Newsweek’s Chief Political Correspondent, Senior Editor and Deputy Washington Bureau Chief. Since I don't really follow tv news or read Newsweek much, I'm not really familiar with this particular pundit, but once he got past the hack jokes, he was pretty good. (Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Hillary Clinton are summoned before g-d. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah blah, Hillary says "I think you are sitting in my chair". C'mon, just because it's old doesn't make it vintage.) I asked him if he thought the Republican nominee was going to come from the current pack, and why he thought Bush/Cheney/Rove had done such a poor job of succession planing. He reckons that Bush will probably ultimately favor Thompson, but that the old man likes Romney-- because Bush pere is tight with Romney's coreligionist, Brent Scowcroft. Okay, whatever-- the more interesting part was the second part, which made some sense to me. After brushing the Cheney part lightly aside ("He figures he's already been president for eight years, who needs more?" Budda-bump.), he opined that for Bush it was never about the Republican Party-- it was personal. He wanted to avenge a perceived wrong to his father, and he wanted to show that he wasn't the fuck-up that people reckoned him. He likened Bush to Nixon in that regard-- Nixon was for Nixon, not for the Republicans-- he thought the Republican Party had been screwing him over for his entire life. (I'd add that just because he was paranoid didn't mean he was wrong.) For Rove, who thought himself the second coming of Mark Hanna, there was a miscalculation as to the potency of the immigration question. It wasn't so much that Rove didn't have a plan-- it's just that the plan didn't work. I have a little bit of a problem with that-- I don't see any evidence that anyone was being groomed, at any time-- but it may be that they just got caught short on their timing.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In Ketchum, Idaho for the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel meeting with A.. I've never been to the Gem State before, and with the afternoon to kill, we thought we'd take the Hemingway tour. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that this is where he killed himself, but I'd forgotten until we got here. His grave is, as you can see, a pilgrimage spot, or, possibly a popular destination for scotch drinkers. The poor son of a bitch, at least he finished his days in a beautiful spot.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I've been looking for it for a couple of years now, and Bloomington proved to be the place where I found "Straight Life: The Story of Art Pepper" (by Pepper and his wife, Laurie). It is as good an autobiography as I have ever read in many ways-- Pepper's wife taped his reminiscences, then supplemented them with anecdotes from friends and family, and interviews and articles about Pepper from Downbeat. The effect is something like a Dos Passos novel, but it wouldn't have worked if Pepper had been anything less than as candid as his allowed himself to be. In some sense I suspect that the honesty he showed came about as a result of his time with Synanon, and that turns out to be the problem with the book. While it is certainly true that when you think of Art Pepper you think of heroin addiction, (true of a lot of alto players, actually) what makes him interesting is his music. "Straight Life" is a book that allows Pepper's addictions to define him instead of his art, and while the stuff about being a junkie, and committing crimes, and going to prison is really interesting, and as well-written as anything William S. Burroughs did along those lines, I'd have liked more detail on recording and touring and some of the people he played with.

Of course, that would have been a very different book. Pepper does give some detail about the "Meets the Rhythm Section" side, for example, and the influence he felt from John Coltrane after getting out of San Quentin, but his priority for almost his entire life was finding drugs. Actually, even if there had been more about playing, it probably would have been like the story he tells about "Meets the Rhythm Section": his wife and his producer set up the date without his knowledge, because he was strung out. His horn had been put away dirty, because he was strung out. He didn't have a set list-- you get the picture. A book like this really drives it home: junkies are little better than animals, even charming, talented junkies like Art Pepper. Compelling stuff-- I raced through the 500 pages, even though I knew that it would end badly. He died on methadone maintenance, which mostly kept him off smack, but to compensate he continued to drink like his ass was on fire, and added a charming cocaine addiction in his last years. His first wife divorced him when he went away for his first stretch, and his daughter was adopted by her second husband. What happened to his second wife is just miserable to read about -she followed him into addiction, and he is completely unsympathetic to the fact that he destroyed her life. That's just how it is when you are a junkie, even though neither Art nor Laurie ever comes out and says it. You don't care about other people, you only care about the next fix. He almost never mentions another musician, but he has plenty of kind words for the people in prison that brought him drugs.

My shelves have "Meets the Rhythm Section", "Smack Up" and "Village Vanguard Friday". I think there is room for two or three more, because he really did play beautifully. I'm just glad I never knew him.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The brawl between Norman Mailer and Rip Torn in "Maidstone" is famous: Torn took a hammer to Mailer's head, apparently because Mailer was such an effective director that everyone lost themselves in their roles. And also, I suppose, because there was a fair amount of drug use going on. I've never seen "Maidstone", but here's the donnybrook..
I've often wondered if Mailer was really as tough as all that. On the evidence of the clip, I'd say he was pretty tough.

UPDATE: Come to find out that the cameraman on this shot was D. A. Pennebaker

Thursday, July 19, 2007

To Bloomington, Indiana this week, to score an apartment for EGA. During her campus visit last spring she met another prospective student, and they agreed that if they both decided to attend they should find a two bedroom flat to share. As luck would have it, that's how things shook out, but EGA's fellow wizard lives in California, and wasn't able to come out to hunt so the task of finding the place fell to the more closely situated EGA. This ramped the pressure up a little, but I think it worked out well.

As is typical of EGA, she'd done a fair amount of preliminary spade work. Oddly, the university doesn't have any sort of off-campus housing office, or even a centralized place for listings or postings. The magical interweb made some of the early research simpler than it would have been, and an established grad student helped out with some tips. The campus is huge-- I'd guess that it is about as big as the town itself, and this complicates the real estate question somewhat for us. Because neither EGA nor the housemate will have cars at first, finding something close in was a priority, and most of what we looked at on the first day was not really in walking distance. There seems to be pretty good bus service, but reliance on mass transit can be a frustrating thing when you are in a new place. We finished the first day with one reasonable place about a 20 minute walk from the east side of the campus. The apartment itself was a bit on the dreary side, but the location seemed workable.

On the next day we had the lay of the land better established. We started working the classifieds, and that turned the trick. The first flat we saw was much more attractive than the leading contender from the day before, and the second was perfectly situated right downtown a couple of blocks from the school. It is unmistakably grad student housing, but the rule is location,after all and I think it will work out well for them.

It has been some time since I've been exposed to realtors-- I hold them in pretty low esteem generally, but it was interesting to see how personality plays into it. The leasing agent who showed us the last two places is an itinerant, and was a real ball of fire. Dark haired and olive complexioned, tall and stylishly turned out in a light dress and, memorably, a pair of open-toed, chrome yellow patent leather heels that looked like something Minnie Mouse might wear. Her personality didn't close this deal, but it might have closed us on one of the places we looked at yesterday. As we stood outside her office, just before going in to deal with the lease and what all, A. asked her something, and the conversation turned to food. Her eyes got big, and she stood, her legs apart, feet slightly pigeon-toed, her arms and fingers spread and exclaimed, "Dude, the food in Bloomington is the best anywhere-- they have everything! Turkish, Tibetan, Chinese, Moroccan-- you name it! I spent my first two weeks here eating everything I saw!" It's true, too. I was concerned that here in the heartland it would be all Applebee's all the time, but actually the town is full of cool restaurants. Even better, from my standpoint, is that the beer selection at the package store we located the first night surpasses anything I've ever seen. Shame it's a nine hour drive-- I'd like to shop there more often.
I like Bloomington, and I especially like the campus, which is both bucolic and grand. It's all Indiana limestone, of course, but there is a fair amount of architectural variety, and variety of scale as well. It is summer, so things are quiet. There are bicycles everywhere, which I suppose I'd expected, but it was still nice to see. Folks here bleed Crimson and Cream-- red is a staple color in just about everyone's wardrobe.

Our grand tour of the Midwest continues tomorrow. In typical fashion we have crammed too much into too little time, and we will be proceeding to Holland, Michigan to retrieve LCA from the Terpsichordian retreat where she has been passing the last two weeks. A true son of the Empire State, I am often surprised by how many places in this country I haven't been to. This has been my first trip to the Hoosier State, and I'm glad I've liked it this much. It's funny how this sort of thing goes. None of us thought that EGA would be sleeping under a bridge, but it feels much better knowing that she now has a fixed address. A source of anxiety has been eliminated, and since EGA practically wanders around yowling like a Siamese cat when she is anxious, I think we will all feel much relieved.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

In the course of a review of "James Brown: The Singles Volume Three: 1964-1965" at Pitchfork Douglas Wolk quotes Dave Marsh: "The only way ['Papa's Got A Brand New Bag'] could be more bone-rattling would be if James Brown himself leaped from your speakers, grabbed you tight by the shoulders and danced you around the room, all the while screaming straight into your face."

As a rule I don't re-watch sporting events, or even highlights, but this game is an exception.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Save the date: October 20, Riviera Theater, The New Pornographers.

Mark Siegel has it so right he deserves to be simply quoted verbatim: "If any of the Christmas ghosts showed up in Bush's bedroom, he would scream, cower, and generally cause a scene until Cheney showed up and shot it in the face."

Sunday, July 15, 2007

In an essay on the qualifications of the current group of presidential candidates Matt Bai posits that the "emergence of the Internet age has been accompanied, in general, by a steady devaluing of expertise." Bai is hardly the first to make this observation. It is a popular truism among a lot of pseudo-intellectual journalists, and other members of classes that have been used to having their qualifications to explain things to the rest of the population taken for granted. As is often the case with the opinions these people put out, this particular hypothesis is 180 degrees wrong, wrong, wrong. I would put it to you that the emergence of the Internet age has in fact demonstrated that there is a great deal more expertise in the world than had previously ever been assumed, and that the market for it has not been devalued at all.

If you are reading this, for example, the chances are excellent that you are a regular consumer of quite a number of additional sources of news and opinion, and it is also very likely that these other outlets are far more diverse than the traditional sources used to be. If you lived in New York in the 70's and 80's, for example, you could, if you were so inclined, read the Times, the News and the Post. You could also pick up the Wall Street Journal, bringing the cost of your daily print media consumption up to about the same as your daily transportation. NPR was hard to get in a lot of the City then, but there were two local television stations with news programs, the three network news programs, decent news programing on PBS, and two all-news radio stations. That sounds like a lot, but after all, New York was the center of media for the entire country, and a media capital world-wide rivaled by very few other cities. You wouldn't have to drive far at all to find yourself in a city with one newspaper, usually owned by a chain, and usually just carrying wire-service reporting. If you wanted the Times, it came in by bus, and you could pick it up some time after lunchtime, if you were lucky.

If you think about it, what has happened to music in our time is similar to what has happened to news and opinion writing. Used to be that if you wanted to be in the know about music you'd follow the music business. There were perhaps a dozen labels out there, and in any given region there'd be maybe one decent radio station. You read Rolling Stone, and maybe Creem or Crawdaddy. These publications followed what the labels were putting out, because the labels were buying advertisements. It seemed then that there was a lot of music going on, but really there wasn't as much as you'd think-- there's a lot more happening today, and if you don't realize that, it is because you have lost track of the fact the the art is different from the means of distribution. Ask your kids-- they'll explain it. Ask Maria Schneider.

Bai likens journalists to physicians: "A generation ago, you went to the doctor to find out about the pain in your knee; now you go to WebMD, diagnose it yourself and tell him what medicines you want. People used to trust stockbrokers and insurance agents; now they buy and sell at E*Trade and compare policies online. American voters who once looked to newspaper columnists for guidance on politics now blog their own idle punditry." He can't see how specious this comparison is, but I'm sure you can, gentle reader. The training necessary to perform surgery is quite different from the training necessary to have a legitimate political opinion. For the latter, access to news and information is the necessary first requirement-- paired with the willingness to think about the information, instead of merely looking to newspaper columnists. Looking to newspaper columnists, it seems to me, is one of the things that got us into this mess. You want proof? Look no further in the Magazine than the next page, where Robert Novak is Q&A'd. Novak is the kinda guy Bai reckons is qualified to do our thinking for us.

There are a surprising number of experts out there, and the Internet gives us-- for the first time in history-- greater access to that expertise than was ever possible before. This is not a devaluation of expertise-- it is its flowering.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

To the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Toronto last night, a good idea of Jim's, and a hell of a good match: USA 2, Uruguay 1 in double overtime. The official line has the tying score as an own goal-- it was right in front of us, and didn't look like that to me, but I'm an American, so what do I know?

The US advances to the round of eight, where they will see Austria, which defeated the Gambia. They square off on Saturday. Spain and the Czech Republic are still alive in their half of the bracket, and Chile, Portugal, Zambia, Nigeria, Argentina, Poland, Mexico and the Congo are all playing in the other regional. Argentina v. Poland is tonight in Toronto-- I can't tell you how tempting it is to go back and catch another game.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

To "The Rise of the Silver Surfer" last night. If you are the sort of person who saw the trailer and said, "Wow! They're adapting Fantastic Four issues 48 through 50!" then the chances are that you've already seen it-- and that you liked it well enough. My geek kung fu doesn't rise to quite that level, which is why we saw it a month after its release, in an empty theater, but I liked it well enough. Good fx, good handle on characters that are as familiar to me as any in literature. I think it is particularly notable that the film recognizes something that not everyone who has worked on the series gets: the FF is about The Thing. Ben Grimm's pathos, and his heart, are what distinguishes this group. It can be over-played, but it must not be underplayed. I'd say that FF2 is the equal of its predecessor, and if it is not quite as good as the X-Men movies, well, that's still pretty good. Spiderman has better villains, and the X-Men has a more engaging social theme. I'd go see the next FF movie, but I'm not sure where they can take it. We've established that they will kick Dr. Doom's ass every time-- who are they going to roll out next? Mole Man? Sub Mariner? You see the problem.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Everything John Dickerson says about Bush commuting Libby's sentence is true-- but I don't care. I still say that it reveals Bush for exactly what he is, and strips his defenders of arguments. Really, it is a terrific result: Libby disgraced, Bush disgraced-- if it made Cheney look worse, I suppose I'd like it better, but at this point I'm not sure Cheney can look any worse.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

To "All's Well That Ends Well" at Shakespeare in Delaware Park over the weekend, btw. I'd meant to write about it earlier, then forgot until I discovered that Outside Counsel is number 1 on Google for Kate LoConti, who has the lead. Until I checked I wasn't sure where I'd seen her before (she was Ophelia in 2005's "Hamlet". I liked her in that, too.) It's a tough play to do, but Ms. LoConti does well just by playing it straight. Actually, that's pretty much what everyone does, and it works because it respects the material. There is no attempt made to make these disagreeable people anything more than what they are, and the net effect is that we get the story pretty much the way Shakespeare wrote it. If the opportunity presented itself, I'd buy another bottle of wine and see it again, actually. It is not performed often, and I am inclined to cram as much Shakespeare into my life as I can. Next year, to my vexation, Shakespeare in the Park will be presenting only one play, followed by "Kiss Me, Kate." I like Cole Porter fine, but I'd rather see "Titus Andronicus".

"Othello" after July 26-- "All's Well" closes on the 15th.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hey, the downtown Buffalo casino is open for business! I for one welcome the unparalleled times of prosperity promised by our Native American overlords. (Via Buffalo Pundit.)

I'll go along with Timothy Noah on the Libby thing, I think. For me, the main thing is that Scooter's conviction-- and Bush commuting his sentence-- establish that the Bush administration is utterly without credibility, and is disgraced. Actually having the guy serve his sentence is unnecessary, and is too close to schadenfreude for me to feel good about.

Monday, July 02, 2007

We listened to the Democratic candidates' Presidential debate on the way to Pittsburgh Saturday. Although I like the idea of a lot of the candidates-- and will be voting for Mike Gravel-- there was no question but that Hillary won the thing. She was impressive. She answered the questions that were asked, directly, with no hemming and hawing. Her answers seemed to us to contain the correct policy answers. Most of all, she seemed passionate and engaged with the audience. I hate it, but the candidate we heard would chew up and spit out any Republican out there.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?