Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

We always had the National Review around the house growing up, a magazine that I dipped into but never got into, if you know what I mean. William F. Buckley, though, he was cool. He'd loll back in his chair and absolutely drill some hapless sap who'd agreed to come on "Firing Line", and he did it with that Larchmont lockjaw accent-- even if you disagreed with him-- as I always did, you had to admire his style. He was my second favorite candidate for mayor of New York. There aren't many left from that time-- Gore Vidal should be careful crossing streets.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Scrolling around for something to watch before going to bed last night, I came upon Game Three of the 1969 World Series. Jackie O and John-John were in the stands, sharing a box with Jerry Lewis. Nelson Rockefeller was there. And the Metropolitans blew past the Orioles 5-0. Tommie Agee made two spectacular saves in in centerfield, one of which came with two outs and the bases loaded in the eighth. Nolan Ryan came in to relieve Gary Gentry and he was Nolan Ryan, baby. He pitched like that for the next twenty seven years. It was his only World Series appearance, and it was in a Mets uniform. In the eighth inning he got Frank Robinson to fly out to right center (the second spectacular catch Agee made that day-- oh, and he'd led off the game with a home run), then struck out Boog Powell and Brooks Robinson. Paul Blair looked at a called third strike to end the game-- Ryan's third strikeout of the game.

Other highlights included Shea Stadium with green walls, the stands filled with men in hats and women in dresses, the fact that it was an afternoon start, played in daylight, the hilarious sideburns on the players, and the terrific flannel uniforms. Nice.

Monday, February 25, 2008

To the Tap Room Saturday night to see Willie Nile. I stand by my assessment from two years ago: Nile is certainly a pro, but he only has warning track power. On the way home A. asked, "So what's his claim to fame, exactly? Was I supposed to know any of those songs?" "He came along too late to be a New Dylan," I told her, "But once he was going to be a Next Springsteen." Still, there are pleasures to be found at the Triple A level, and among them is intimacy: for ten bucks we got a solid rock'n'roll show from a guy who opened for the Who back when. He's a little too faux Irish for my taste, but I'm a little sensitive to faux Irishness, so you shouldn't take my word for it. And I'll say this-- the band worked. Chris Knab having the time of his life, four guitars, plus Willie and solid backup singing gave the material a strong setting, and it was plain that everyone in the room was enjoying themselves. Like most Next Springsteens, or even the Boss himself, Nile's theme is redemption-- often redemption through the saving powers of a rock'n'roll heart (he is not so trite as to suggest that the music itself amounts to a baptism, thank goodness), and this sort of thing goes over well in a crowded bar on a cold February night.

At this festive time of the year, when the sports world is all about how the Sabres will fold and college hoops, I'm glad I've got the Chilly Challenge and the Shamrock to divert me. College basketball just makes me want to grind my teeth, and that's a shame, because it should be a lot more fun than it is allowed to be. Mark Cuban-- an IU alum-- gets it right: "Every student who goes to school, post high school is given every opportunity and encouraged to maximize their effort and optimize their resources to achieve their goals. Unless of course they happen to attend a school that is a member of the NCAA and their goal is to be a professional athlete. In those cases, the NCAA does everything it can to make sure that the athlete is not a typical or traditional student.
"For these student athletes, rather than doing every thing possible to excel in their chosen field, they face rules and restrictions that are exceeded in quantity and complexity by the US Tax Code."

Friday, February 22, 2008

For a long time I resisted the sides Miles Davis made after "Jack Johnson" on the grounds that I couldn't tell where Miles ended and Teo Macero began. I am more open minded now-- fact is that jazz is a collaborative art, and although Miles is (properly) viewed as a leader, he was a collaborator throughout his career. His collaborations with Macero are every bit as legitimate as the work he did with Gil Evans and Wayne Shorter. I was surprised to see Macero's obit in the Times today-- who'd have thought he was still alive? I'll go home and play "In A Silent Way" tonight, and if I get through the weekend without buying "Live/Evil" or "Down On The Corner" it'll be a surprise. So long, Teo, and thanks.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

We got a marketing call from AARP, who wanted us to buy advertising in their directory. "So, we could get injunctions to get those kids off the lawn?" I asked.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I don't know what it is about college basketball. College football is obviously every bit as corrupt, but hoops seems more exploitive to me somehow. Sure, there are "clean" programs-- I hate to admit it, but Duke seems like one-- but the whole set-up looks kinda dodgy to me. When Indiana hired Kelvin Sampson it looked like a 'lie down with dogs, get up with fleas' sort of proposition, and what do you know? That's just how it seems to have turned out. Pity, since IU is also a school that has had a reputation over the years of playing fair. Hoosier Hoops had devolved into such a circus during Bobby Knight's last days in the bunker that they must have figured a fast'n'dirty fix was called for, and that's the ride they got. Indiana looked pretty good when they finally called it a day with Knight-- and I say this as a Knight fan, albeit one with reservations. The Bloomington powers-that-be decided that Knight was not bigger than the university, and called him on his bullshit. There have been few finer hours in college sports administration in the past ten years, and then they went and screwed it up. It's a big arena to fill, after all, and people in Indiana are pretty serious about b-ball.

It comes down to a problem of emphasis. Big-time college sport seems to swallow up the mission of too many schools-- basically any school that refers to its sports as a "program", I'd say. The NCAA is ineffective because it is built to be ineffective, with the end result being that American universities, which should be regarded as being bastions of integrity, end up looking like cheats. Sampson's sin was making phone calls to prospective "recruits"-- ostensibly a technical violation of a nit-picky rule, except that there were a ton of them, he knew he wasn't allowed to, and then he lied about it. And then there's that word, "recruits". Not "prospective students". Has it really been seven years since the Knight Commission report? And why is this happening now, when I have an excuse to be following college basketball?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

We saw short ribs at Wegman's late last week, but the weekend did not yield an opportunity to cook them, so last night I made two dinners. Working with LCA to prepare my mise en place, on one burner I prepared a sort of pork chops Lyonnaise, and on the other I made the short ribs, in a Provençal manner. Because LCA has abjured meat, I have been cast back into my Cajun repertoire lately, in order to make seafood that is more interesting than grilled salmon again and again and again. It's fun to do-- there is a lot of chopping, and making roux, and the result is deeply satisfying, but the same can be said of working with French recipes. We Netflixed Julia Child's early programs last week, so this was all part of the household zeitgeist I guess. (Julia is a member of our household pantheon, an eclectic group that also includes They Might Be Giants and Edward Eager.) It was fun to watch her, in glorious black and white, flipping a potato dish, missing the pan, then reassembling it, saying, "If it happens in the kitchen and no one else sees it, who needs to know?" Working with my short ribs, it was fun to think about how the Cajun style uses bell peppers instead of carrots to impart a particular sweetness to the mirapoux, or how in the Cajun style I would have started out by browning flour in oil, then added the vegetables, but for this dish I started by softening the vegetables, then added the flour to pull it all together. The whole works went into the oven to braise, and the house was filled with the scent of thyme and lavender from the herbs de Provence.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Although ordinarily I am pretty much strictly an IPA man, something about the quality of the light this time of year stirs a Guinness tropism in me. In a similar way, I sometimes feel a vague inclination to read something Irish. A few pages into "Ulysses" and the urge generally passes, but on occasion I'll take a run at "The Third Policeman" and marvel at how wierdly funny it is, like Kafka on 'shrooms. I've had "At Swim Two Birds" sitting around for a couple of years-- the last couple of times I've started it the urge for Irish passed before I could get into it-- but I guess it is time to give it another go.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Earlier in this political season I think it was easier to remember that one of the nicest things about the Democrats' field of candidates was that the array of choices looked so appealing. Now that we are down to the last two chocolates in the Whitman Sampler box it is easy to lose track of the fact that what we have is still a lot more appealing than the stale, fused together after-dinner mints the Republicans are offering. I'm happy with the way I cast my ballot, and no matter how it turns out down the road, I'll be happy when I walk out of my polling place in November.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

In another context altogether King Kaufman writes, "I have a bootleg recording of a concert at which a woman yells out "I love you, Bruce!" After a little cheer dies down in the crowd, Springsteen says, "But you don't really know me."

Kaufman is talking about the fact that we can't know public figures through their portrayal in the media, although it seems as though we do, an interestingly clear eyed observation, and an important one in the context of our civic lives this electoral cycle. It seems that voters are basing their decisions on "character" rather than on any specific policy differences between Barrak and Hillary, or McCain and Huck. This is nothing new, of course, but it is nevertheless disturbing when you consider that we really know very little about what these people are like. When you listen, as we did last night, to the stuff that Huckabee says, it quickly becomes apparent that he is not a particularly deep thinker, for all that he is a very engaging speaker. Hardly a surprise-- his degree is in Divinity, not in anything analytical. McCain, sounding more like Bob Dole every day, likewise has very little of substance to say-- he is platitudinous, nothing more. Really, the only candidates left on the board who say specific things about specific stuff are good old Mike Gravel and HRC. Obama certainly has the intellectual chops, and when called upon to do so he can display them, but he does better at rallies than in debates for a reason-- in debates, specifics win, and Hillary has those. Actually, it is when Clinton gets away from her policy wonk roots that she loses me-- she didn't vote for this horrible war because it was good policy, after all, she did it out of political expedience, or cowardice, or both. That is, I think that's why-- but actually, I don't know. I can't know. Her statements about why she voted that way do not have the ring of truth to me, ("I trusted the President." What! How could you? You have got to be kidding me!) but it is impossible for me to know why she did what she did if what I am basing this on is an assessment of her character.

I get almost none of my news from television, and I wonder if this affects the way I process my political opinions. I read, and I argue with the radio, and both of these encourage a more analytical approach than tv news. Reading and arguing are what we do in our glamor profession-- when you roll in the video monitor at trial, you can see the jury relax, like slipping into a warm bath. They are abandoning their critical reasoning skills when the tape starts to roll, and that means that they are about to start making decisions based on impressions-- like the impressions we have about our politicians. McCain is a straight-talking maverick-- until you look at his voting record. Hillary is a liberal-- until you look at her voting record. I'm not sure what Huckabee is supposed to be-- a bible thumping cracker, maybe, but that doesn't completely fit with his record as governor. Obama is the Black Kennedy, I guess, but who knows what that is supposed to mean. If these are the evaluative criteria that we we use, why would anyone think that voting for people is the way to find leadership that will accomplish anything worthwhile? With democracy you get the government you deserve, maybe, even if it isn't what you think you want.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nice write-up about Peepshow.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A weekend characterized by three or four weekends worth of stuff. CLA and the rest of the Geneseo Warthogs were in town for Winterfest, a Sevens tournament sponsored by the Buffalo Rugby Club, played at Front Park, on the shores of Lake Erie. There's a lot more sports that goes on than anyone knows about-- this thing, which was crazy Rugby, played in snow and mud, had forty teams, from all over-- Potsdam and Albany, Syracuse and South Buffalo. The park was ringed with barrels filled with burning broken up pallets and the whole thing was a glorious mess.

Then to James "Blood" Ulmer at Bruce Eaton's Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz at the Albright-Knox. Amazing stuff, blues that is based in the harmolodics theory of Ornette Coleman. Couldn't stay for the whole set, because SqueakyWheel's Peepshow was also Saturday night.

Sunday was breaking down Peepshow, loading and unloading the truck. It occurred to me as we were doing this that doing art requires a lot more than vision-- the technical skills that are necessary to operate as an artist include knowing how to use a hammer and a scaffold. Fortunately, there is also a place for people who can help schlep stuff, so I was able to make myself useful.

Friday, February 08, 2008

So many things were responsible for the failure of Mittens' campaign for the Republican nomination, but I feel a little bad about the fact that a big part of it has to be ascribed to religious intolerance. That's the hell of being a liberal, I guess-- Romney gets to make a speech full of bigotry, and we get to feel remorse over the fact that it didn't work. You can be a capable governor of Massachusetts and believe what you want, but you'd better believe that Jesus Christ rode a dinosaur if you want to be President. So long, Mitt. Time to strap the dog to the top of the car and head home.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

As the New York Observer notes, "calling for debates is something you do when you're behind." So is loaning your campaign money. Still, I think HRC is a long way from finished. Obama's edge may be that his contributors haven't been maxed out, but the fact that he did so well in the caucus states this week suggests to me that he has an advantage that other "insurgent" (if that's the word) candidates for the nomination have not had in the past-- he plainly has strong organizers working for him. Jessie Jackson made it as far as he did without a lot of money (although he had some of A & mine). Dean had a ton of dough, which Joe Trippi spent like he was managing John Connally's campaign. It would be interesting to see a study tracking fund raising over the course of primary seasons from, say 1980 to date-- it seems to me that the money often runs out before the momentum does, and that, as a general proposition, the managers of presidential nomination campaigns to a pretty dreadful job of husbanding their resources, but I could be wrong. The 1984 Mondale-Hart contest is being held up as a template for what is going on this year-- I'd be curious about how the money came in and how it was spent in that year in particular.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

This is the sort of toy I have wanted on election nights my entire life.

I really thought Obama had a better shot at New York than it turned out, but California didn't surprise me. Missouri is an interesting development-- I think he's got a long road, but I like his chances in Maryland and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, on the Red side of the dial, Huckabee continues to be patronized, and continues to roll along. He swept the South, which makes him a lot more important than anyone is admitting, and on the NBC News interview that I saw he was both feisty and charming. The media (like, for instance, the odious Tim Russert) act like Huck is McCain's sidekick, but I still think he has more potential. Mittens is all but out of the running, having demonstrated once more the counter-intuitive truth that money isn't what gets you the Republican nomination. I thought it was interesting that one of the talking heads said that McCain the Maverick (how conservative do you have to be to make these people happy?) should reach out to Phil Gramm in order to start mending fences. Phil Gramm knew how to throw it around like a drunken sailor, and seems to me to therefore be a more natural Romney ally.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I was number 44 at my polling place this morning at about quarter to seven. We expected a line, but there wasn't one-- I don't know if that means anything. My college chum Joe Morelli was on the ballot as a Clinton delegate-- I wanted to vote for him, but went straight line Obama for maximum effect. Interesting to see that the Clinton delegates on our slate included the two most prominent African-American politicians in the area. Byron Brown and Crystal Peoples were both on the slate. It is also interesting that the Republican ballot doesn't list the delegates-- they have a winner take all system, so their vote goes into a black box, and Jim Domalgowski or someone figures out how they want to count them later, I guess. (Image via BoingBoing.)
UPDATE: I searched my archives to get a better sense of turnout in the Delaware District over the past few years. We generally vote first thing in the morning, so I don't know what was going on in 05. In 04 I was number 128 at 7:50 AM. In the 2005 primary I was 13th in line. In the 2005 General I was 497th (out of 909 registered) at 6:30. In 2006 we went in the morning-- I was number 84. Last year I was 37th.

Friday, February 01, 2008

LCA had a group of her friends over the other night. Because they are high school girls and Unitarians they are also vegetarians, so A. bought some hummus for them. They didn't eat it, probably because there was nothing to put it on, so last night I made pita bread. It's sort of backwards when you think about it-- hummus is a snap to make, so that's what we bought; pita bread is a production, so I was baking until 10 o'clock. Anyway, it turns out that pita is pretty straightforward. Yeast, water, sugar. Flour,salt, a little more water, put the bowl in a warm place (which turns out to not be my kitchen, go figure, but the oven has a "bread proofing" setting that works great). The trick, to the extent that it amounts to a trick, is a hot, 500° oven, and a pre-heated cookie sheet. Roll 'em out, slap them on the sheet, flip and you're done. Pretty nifty.

In the Northeast, and probably in some other parts of the county as well, I imagine it seems as though the principal export of Long Island is college students. I wonder if there are other places where something like that occurs? Do students in Oklahoma think to themselves, "Man, everybody here is from Dallas,"? If you go to school in Arizona, do you wonder why all the women speak with that annoying Northern California accent? Or is the Long Island thing both unique and a national phenomenon?

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