Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, September 30, 2011

Charley Pierce has been doing great work for approximately ever, but now that he has shifted his focus to mostly politics instead of mostly sports he is proving to be the heir to Murray Kempton that a lot of us have been waiting for. He is a daily must-read.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nice article about Ambrose Bierce, a patron saint of Outside Counsel.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This year's nominees for the Rock and Roll HOF:

Beastie Boys
The Cure
Eric B. & Rakim
Guns 'N Roses
Joan Jett and The Blackhearts
Freddie King
Laura Nyro
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Rufus with Chaka Khan
The Small Faces/The Faces
The Spinners
Donna Summer

The Small Faces/Faces leap out-- in either incarnation they should be in, and I am puzzled as to why they are lumped together like that. Ogden's Nut Gone Flake and A Nod Is As Good As A Wink...To A Blind Horse are pretty clearly the work of different bands, personnel overlap notwithstanding. The Spinners and Donna Summer belong in, as does Laura Nyro. Likewise Freddy King, but after that I think we are talking about artists that belong in the Hall of the Pretty Good.

UPDATE: Apparently this is the first year of eligibility for They Might Be Giants. The fact that they weren't even nominated is a travesty of world-historical proportions. (Well, maybe not that big a travesty, but still.)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Two nice comments on the Bills from an article about the Jets:

[T]he Bills just put up 34 points (and could have put up more) on a Bill Belichick defense yesterday.
Indeed. That was no accident-- the Bills flat-out beat one of the three or four best teams in the league. Also,

But with the [Jets'] crazy schedule coming up — a schedule that looks even harder with the emergence of the Bills — the Jets need every win they can corral.
We are only three games into the season, and the schedule is still enough to make me flinch, but the sun always seems warmer, and the mood of the city lighter when the Bills win, and there seems to be reason to believe that there will be more Mondays when I'll feel this good this season. If nothing else it is nice to hear sportswriters and broadcasters showing some respect. Listening to the game on the drive back from Pittsburgh was a particular pleasure. We got the Pats' feed on the satellite, a not-especially-adept team of homer chatterers who started to sound panic-y when the the score was 21-10.

Tangled Up in Law: The Jurisprudence of Bob Dylan. (Via Expecting Rain.)

Friday, September 23, 2011

In the course of a piece about cheap vodka Serious Eats correspondent Will Gordon makes this observation:

"I went to one of those midlevel private colleges that exist only in the Northeast. In the rest of the country they're rational enough to send the geniuses to elite schools and everyone else to whatever perfectly good school their state happens to underfund, but up here we've created several barely distinct layers of private college to accommodate Long Island's endless supply of average students with above-average means."

I have long wondered at the fact that people from the South and the West mostly seem to have attended their states' flagship university. There are exceptions, I guess, but these seem to exist mostly to foster sports rivalries. This accounts for places like Auburn, and USC. Duke and Vanderbilt are Long Island adjunct institutions, and the Midwest is a subject for further study.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paul William Beltz has died. He changed the shape of New York law more than once-- he was one of those post-WWII giants. Off the top of my head I can tell you that surveillance material is discoverable in New York because of him. He established the calculation that is used under New York's future damages statute. I would be hard-pressed to think of any other one guy who had a greater effect on the law of products liability. He was close to being a force of nature around here, lighting up juries like pinball machines.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I grew up on DC comics. Sure, I read Marvel too, but Superman and Batman were my entry point. I'm not sure when I walked away from comics-- it seems to me that it was sometime around when Jack Kirby took over Jimmy Olsen, which was 1970. I'd have been in eighth grade, so that sounds about right. I got back into the form in the mid-80s, I guess, reading Chris Claremont's X-Men and the like on the subway. I stopped again around the time we moved to Buffalo, basically because there weren't any handy newstands, but from time to time I'd dip in, just to see what was happening. Last year I started following what was going on with the Doom Patrol, because I'd always liked them, and because the Metal Men, who I'd come to like, were the back-of-the-book second feature.

During my mid-80s delving into comics I read a lot of independent books, and I liked those best of all. Scott McCloud's Zot!, Mark Evanier's DNAgents and Crossfire, Max Allan Collins' and Terry Beatty's Ms. Tree,
a series called The Elementals.... and here's the thing: I never had a complete run, and I really never got in on the first issue of any of these. In fact, I think the same is true for most people who've read comics. If Superman depended the people who bought Action Comics # 1 for readership then possibly the most iconic character in American belles-lettres would be unknown.

The late 70's and early 80's were, it turns out, an unusual boom time for comics, and one of the things that marked that period was the introduction of an unusual number of new series-- and new publishers. The business model was moving out of the 1940's and into a world of cross-marketing that they couldn't have imagined. Like most, if not all commercial ventures associated with art forms there had been a great deal of exploitation of the creative people, and they were pushing back. Subsequent technological changes-- particularly in terms of distribution-- have worked quite a lot like the way those same changes have affected popular music (and movies, for that matter). Everybody is scrambling to get ahead of it, and one of the ways that DC Comics has decided to deal with the situation has been to re-boot its entire line. Their stated reason is that it is to make their line-up more accessible to new readers, who may be put off by the fact that there are years and years of unfamiliar continuity associated with each of their characters, and with the entire "universe" which all of them occupy. This is, of course, not an altogether new notion: from time to time both Marvel and DC have performed similar re-boots to straighten out continuity issues and boost sales. I guess Jim Shooter's Secret Wars was the first; DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths followed hard on its heels. I gather there have been others since. The problem with all of this, however, is that even if you accept the notion that readers bounce off of comics when they are unfamiliar with the continuity, the issue re-occurs at regular intervals. If you want to have reoccurring characters with a history then you are confronted with only two options: regular re-boots, or complex back stories. (There is no rule that says these narratives have to take place in a continuum, by the way: Donald Duck doesn't. You never see Stan Lee style footnotes in Archie comics explaining that Mr. Weatherbee and Mrs. Grundy went on a date in issue 231.)

It seems to me that DC has gotten it wrong here. I like complex back stories, and I always have. In fact, when I go to a super hero movie I hate it when they waste my time with explication. If you don't know that Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, or that Superman was sent to Earth when his home planet blew up it doesn't affect your ability to watch the Wallcrawler websling, or the Son of Krypton bend steel with his bare hands. Wasn't Wolverine more interesting when his past was mysterious? One of the pleasures of comics is that they have such extremely complex (and goofy) back stories that it is fun to puzzle them out. (It isn't all that hard, either. Let's face it, we're not talking Henry James here.) Although the internet has changed the means of distribution, it has also made being a fan- and catching up on back stories- easier than it ever was.

There isn't a new Doom Patrol book at the moment, so I don't really have a dog in this fight. Comics publishers can do what they like, but this experiment impresses me as wrong-headed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A few notes on some movies we have seen recently.

My Uncle Fred was in town over the weekend, which means that there was an opportunity to watch stuff that people otherwise might not sit still for. He didn't bring anything, which is unusual, so we watched Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye one night, and The Sugarland Express the next.

I love the Altman Goodbye, which deviates from the plot of Chandler's novel, but is completely true to its spirit. There is always something new to see in an Altman movie: I'd never noticed how Marlowe was depicted as a complete anachronism before: his car, his manner of dress, and even the fact that throughout the movie he is the only one who smokes. (He smokes constantly, and lighting matches is a bit of schtick throughout.) I also hadn't noticed that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a bit as one of the henchmen. It isn't credited, but there he is. (Also uncredited is Morris the Cat.)

Steven Spielberg's Sugarland Express was his first theatrical release. My first thought as we watched it was to compare it with George Lukas' American Graffiti, released a year earlier, I guess because for a period back in the 70's and early 80's it was natural to think of the two classmates and friends together, and because they are both road movies. It is still fun to compare the two, but Sugarland looks more like a Spielberg movie than Graffiti resembles subsequent Lukas work. It is a remarkably well composed work, particularly for a first film, and Goldie Hawn in particular made me glad to have kept the disk on top of the teevee for the last month or so while we waited for everyone to be in the mood for it.

Last night I was in the mood for junk, and as it happened the last Netflix disk in the pile was Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.This may be the greatest scene in cinema history, and the giant octopus is pretty good too. The weirdest part of all, for me, is that Debbie Gibson plays the female lead. She looks good, too, and absolutely plays younger than 40.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Foreign Policy magazine has started a series called "Decline Watch", in which they score news stories on a five point scale:
1: We're totally screwed. Start learning Mandarin.
2. Being a superpower was nice while it lasted.
3. Stay calm and carry on.
4. Decline, schmecline. We're gonna be just fine.
5. USA! USA! 
Outside Counsel will be following this with interest.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

195 at my polling place at 6:30.

Over on the left is a list of web comics that I follow, and a link called "The Funnies". The Houston Chronicle used to have a feature that allowed one to assemble a customized page of newspaper comics, and I'd used that to read the comics that the Buffalo News doesn't run, but that I regard as essential. The Chron dropped that functionality, but it appears that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer still has it, so the link is back. This time I am focusing on the soaps: Mary Worth, Judge Parker, Rex Morgan MD, and Apartment 3G are much funnier than everything else that's out there, and now you can read them all in on convenient location. You're welcome.

Monday, September 12, 2011

To The Adirondack Classic: The 90 Miler as the Pit Crew for Wendy and CLA over the weekend. A description of the event, some thoughts, and some notes on what we'd recommend to anyone interested in participating:

The event starts Friday morning at Old Forge. A. and I weren't there for the put-in, but caught up around lunchtime. The paddlers go through the Fulton Chain of Lakes (First Lake through Eighth Lake), and then continue on to Raquette Lake, the Marion River and the Eckford Chain of Lakes ending in Blue Mountain Lake. It's a long day: 35 miles, including three and a half miles of portage. We got to the bridge at Racquette Lake at about the beginning of the end of the middle of the pack. This is a good spot for pit crew/paddler interaction-- people toss their paddlers water bottles and other stuff, including beer and Nalgene gin-and-tonics, and the atmosphere was pretty festive. We missed our team, who'd struggled in the early going and on the carries. There are two cut-off points, and if the paddlers don't reach those points by a designated time they are pulled out of the water. Paddlers that don't make the cut-off can start the second and third days, but the course is closed after the last cut-off time is passed. This is a pretty carefully thought out system: the number of boats are limited to 250 because this is as many as the race organizers reckon they can safely oversee, and the cut-off times are intended to get the paddlers and the support boats to the take-out point in ample daylight.

The carries on the first day are a bear. Although it is possible to hike into some of them we did not, and we also found that our presence on the course was essentially superfluous. The paddlers bring water (note: a Camelback or other hands-free hydration system is a must have.) and food, sports gel and whatnot, and there are points at the carries where the organizers provide granola bars and the like. As pit crew we found that the best thing we were able to contribute was to get our team to the start, then move on ahead to setup camp. When that is done it's cool to go back and watch what you can of the race. We didn't do this the first day-- we just went to the finish, where we connected with our team and then moved on to the site, on Long Lake.

I like pretty much everything about camping, I suppose, except for the camping part, but we were a good group. Wendy had invited two friends, Don and Chris, who were everything you could wish for in camping companions. There is supper provided for the paddlers (and crew members can pre-order) at the Adirondack Hotel. One of the reasons I would go quietly mad inside of three months if I lived in the Adirondacks would be restaurants like this. A. and I dined apart from the padders, and found the food Adirondack-y. A had some sort of chicken with cheese and olive tapinade. Olive tapenade should have tipped her off. I had trout, with some sort of curry seasoning, and that should have been my warning: the curry was there to compensate for the fact that the closest the trout had been to the water for quite a while was to have been resting in the walk-in at the hotel, across the street from the lake. I gather that the paddler's supper, which was turkey and trimmings, was substantial but uninspired, but there is an important culture of camaraderie in this event, so although A. and I would have done better to have broken bread with Chris and Don back at camp, our paddlers got something worthwhile from the  meal.

The Day Two put-in was down the road from the campsite. The organizers transport the boats, so all the crew has to do is get the paddlers to the start. The put-in point is at a large meadow-- lots of parking. We saw a Bald Eagle while we were getting our bearings-- first I've ever seen in the wild. It was here that we began to understand what a remarkable experience this event is. As we were walking towards the boats someone ran up to A. and asked "Do you have an extra driver who can take our van to The Crusher?" This is exactly the sort of thing that A. is good at volunteering for, and we discovered that this is not at all uncommon. People need their vehicles moved from the start to the finish, and simply hand their keys over to total strangers. (As it happens this guy and his partner finished second in their category, so we Pit Crewed for a serious contender as well as for our own serious team.)

There is a breakfast for the padders at the Adirondack Hotel- our Pit Crew was able to score some coffee. Day Two starts on Long Lake, goes down Long Lake and into the Raquette River, where there is a carry around Raquette Falls. They continue on the Raquette River to the finish at the state boat launch on Routes 3 & 30 (about five miles east of the village of Tupper Lake), called "The Crusher". It's 30 miles with one carry, but that one is a beauty: up hill and down, 1.25 miles, over terrain that makes the wheels mostly useless. The padders start in waves every morning, based on seed times, and boat categories, basically. The slowest go first, and the guideboats and competitive racers and the four person, six person, eight person canoes and the kayaks follow. Again, the idea is to get everyone through the course. There are checkpoints all along the course and they keep careful tabs on where everyone is. After the start we drove down to the Long Lake bridge, and saw Wnedy and CLA pass, then had a cup of coffee.  If you go, I recommend the coffee at the deli across the street from the hotel-- we were able to get a newspaper and a surprisingly respectable bagel.

We broke camp and proceeded to the next campsite, dropping the Ford Aerostar we'd picked up along the way at The Crusher. Because we'd done it right we got to the site in plenty of time to pick a great spot, smack dab on the lake. A. and I went back into Tupper Lake, thinking we'd maybe get a hot dog or something, but it is a depressed little town and the hot dog stand only had vanilla ice cream. (True story!) We went back to The Crusher, joined Dan and Chris and sat on a log drinking beer until Caroline and Wendy came in. This leg must have been pretty great: there are long stretches where just about the only way anyone could get in would be by boat, and even radio communication was limited. At the put-ins and take-outs there were ham radio stations, but they didn't really have any information about specific boats, so we waited hoping they were having a better day than they'd had on Day One. Turned out they did, although they also spilled the boat at one point. They'd pretty much figured out the boat at this point, and were feeling pretty good about things.

Here's a pro tip: CLA was pretty sunburnt after Day One. A cap is good, but I think a brimmed hat would be even better. Neck and ear protection mean a lot when you are on the water for an extend period.

The talk of the event was the attempt of an eight-man war canoe to set a course record by going the distance in under 12 hours. The conditions were probably as close to perfect as they could have been. The water was high (although on this side of the park the devastation of the recent flooding was not in evidence), and the weather was nearly ideal. We had the sort of postcard days you remember about the Adirondacks, and really only enough breeze to be cooling.

A and I joined Chis and Dan for dinner, and they did it right. It was the best meal of the weekend. The next day was the shortest leg of the race, and the put-in was about 100 yards from where we'd made camp. By this time our team felt pretty much the way one does at the 20th mile of a marathon: tired, but excited and confident about finishing. We broke camp and watched as the boats went by. When wendy did this last year she'd made friends with a guy who came by and asked us to take his pick-up to the finish, so I did that. We stopped on the way out and had coffee at the Trading Post, about 200 yards from the campground. Pro tip: don't procrastinate about buying gas. The electric was out from Tupper Lake to Lake Placid that morning, and the Volvo was on "E". Fortunately the Trading Post had a back-up generator. Dan and Chris went off to take a day hike before heading home, and A and I  went to the finish, stopping at a bridge on the way to watch the race pass. When CLA and Wendy came through it was clear that they were crushing it.

Wendy had secured lunch tickets for us, and I recommend this meal: I had the best slice of tomato I've eaten all summer. Wendy and CLA had pulled in front of a number of boats, and finished strong.

Would I do it next year? Maybe. It is tough to get a slot: preference is given to people who have been in it before (one guy has done all 29; about a dozen or so have done 20). It is an interesting group: there are endurance athletes-- runners, triathletes, competitive paddlers-- and then there are the locals. A lot of the locals are in guideboats, which is cool. A lot of the people who are in it don't look particularly fit, but have the technique down. I'd say the way to train-- for me at least-- would be to do the weekday marathon training runs and swap in a long paddle on the weekends for the long run. Equipment matters: I'd want a canoe like the one Wendy and Caroline rented, and that would mean I'd be renting a boat for the summer. I'm thinking about it.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Caroline and Wendy are shoving off for the first leg of the Adirondack Canoe Classic. Andrea and I are on the Thruway. We'll be pit crew for the next three days. As Bob Dylan says, "Things should start to get interesting right about now."

Wendy and Caroline working on their technique out on Tonawanda Creek.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

"It's about George and Lenny working on a ranch and wishing they had their own farm". One of my students last night, on "To Kill A Mockingbird". He may have been kidding, but he was wearing a backwards baseball cap, so probably not.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

If you'd told me that three Mets have won home run titles I'd have guessed Darryl, and I'd have guessed Kingman, but I think I'd have been hung up on Howard Johnson. I shouldn't have been-- he was a good hitter, and I did know that he hit 30 and stole 30 bases, an unusual distinction that I think he shares with only  Jose Canseco. Four Cy Young winners (three of whom are Tom Seaver). They have never had a batting champion. 

The Mets have had distinguished batting averages in their history. The highest was John Olerud’s .354 in 1998. But the Colorado Rockies’ Larry Walker bested him by 9 points that season.
Then there was Cleon Jones, who hit .340 in 1969 as the Mets won a championship. But he was surpassed by Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds, who hit .348, and Roberto Clemente of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who hit .345.
More recently, [David] Wright hit .325 in 2007, falling 15 points short of Matt Holiday’s winning mark for the Rockies.
Jose Reyes, who has been terrific to watch all season is hitting .334, leading the National League, just ahead of Ryan Braun of Milwaukee Brewers at .333. Let's Go Mets!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I don't think I have mentioned that CLA is doing the Adirondack Canoe Classic, '90-Miler' with my Boilermaker pal Wendy. It's this weekend, and we are going with them as their pit crew. Wendy did it last year with her brother Jim, and had a fine-- if grueling-- time. A big take-away was that an equipment upgrade was in order, so this time they are renting a lightweight Kevlar canoe. Both Wendy and CLA are in excellent overall condition, and they have been refining their technique the past couple of weekends. It should be an interesting adventure. I'm particularly impressed by CLA, who started her summer with a 13.1, and is finishing it with this. She rises to a challenge nicely .

Saturday, September 03, 2011

I have tweaked my Lawyers in Movies list this semester:
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)*
Inherit the Wind (1960)*
The Verdict (1982)**
Counselor At Law (1933)*
Michael Clayton (2007)**
Class Action (1991)*
A Civil Action (1998)*
Anatomy of a Murder (1959)*
My Cousin Vinny (1992)**
…And Justice for All  (1979)**
The Talk of the Town (1942)*
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)*
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)*
(* means DVD only. ** means streaming is available.)

Some of my stalwarts aren't available any more. So long, Witness for the Prosecution. Fairwell, Fortune Cookie. Some that I really like got the ax because my students kept bouncing off them. Adios, The Paper Chase. I'm swapping The Talk of the Town for Legally Blonde but it is a close call. It would be interesting to talk about Legally Blonde in the context of the current discussion about the value of legal education, but I am not sure I have the heart. Talk plays into my notion about who the heroes of American jurisprudence really are--  and who we are told they are. I'd like to do A Man For All Seasons, but I have no confidence that they'd stick with it long enough to get it. I keep thinking I'd like to do Philadelphia but I'm not sure there is really that much to say about it. Likewise Chicago. One of my students last term wrote about Find Me Guilty, and I may work that in at some future point. Judge Foschio suggested Alfred Hitchcock's The Wrong Man, but I'm not so sure that fits with what I am trying to do.

Friday, September 02, 2011

I recommend starting every day with Something Positive, unless you are squeamish or easily offended. 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

LCA is now ensconced at Baldwin House. Named for William H. Baldwin,  one-time president of the Long Island Railroad, it is a great looking building, with an ornate staicase and a lot of beautiful woodwork throughout.

Check-in was a breeze. She was a good sport about letting us hang out, but she wasn't interested in going out to lunch or anything like that. She already knew people, and was busily meeting new people, and sent us on our way with a cheery wave.

She says she does not intend to blog, so whatever updates we get I will post here.

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