Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Friday, March 29, 2013

These salmon are the work of my interesting client, Augustina Droze, who is expanding her public art practice to include sculpture. This installation is part of a show at UB's Center for the Arts called Tell Me That I'm Pretty. I liked all of the work there, actually, but the fish, which are stuffed muslin, impressed me as particularly fun. I'd sort of like them in the house, actually, and I'm sure the cats would too, so that's the end of that.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lawyers in Movies gets a shout-out.

The least visited countries in the world. I'd go to pretty much any of them before I'd go to Alaska.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I may have had my last haircut Monday.

My hairline has been in steady retreat for years now, but yesterday in the chair I saw that the peninsula of coif at the front of my head is becoming a tufted island. I am approaching comb-over country, and that is a place I will never visit. If, the next time I go for a clip, I find that I resemble a Chinese Crested -- or Rudy Giuliani-- it is all coming off and I am going smooth.

Monday, March 25, 2013

For the record, here is what I actually wrote for the ArtVoice Influence feature.

I had Georgetown in the Final Four which means that I can now just sit back and enjoy Florida Gulf State.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

There is an interesting piece up at ArtVoice about positive and negative influences in WNY. Although I wrote something for it the quote attributed to me is not something that I said at all, and appears to have been attributed to me in error. (It sounds like something I'd say, but I actually don't agree with it. Unfortunately, given my reputation I doubt that anyone will believe my denial. It would be like Norman Mailer coming home and finding another wife stabbed. "Hey, I'm a stabby guy, but this is not my stabbing.")

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Because I should have known better, the other day I revisited Eric Clapton's No Reason to Cry. It was a huge disappointment to me in 1976-- I think it may have been the last Clapton side I've bought-- but could it have been as bad as that? I mean, it features an otherwise unrecorded Dylan song, with Dylan chiming in on vocals, Ron Wood, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson played on it-- how bad could it be?

Bad. Very, very bad. At his worst (which is, let's face it, most of the time) Eric Clapton sounds like he just woke up from a nap. You'd think that at least the Dylan song might salvage things, but remember, it was 1976:
You speak to me
In sign language
As I’m eating a sandwich
In a small café
At a quarter to three
But I can’t respond
To your sign language
You’re taking advantage
Bringing me down
Can’t you make any sound?
In 1976  Dylan was collaborating with Jacques Levy on lyrics, and this little excerpt may explain why. Rhyming "language" with "sandwich" is one thing, but that's not the half of it. We expect finer grained observation from Dylan. This doggerel just makes me want to think about the sandwich. What kind of sandwich was it? Was it a corned beef sandwich? That seems like the wrong kind of sandwich to be eating when you are contemplating the mute signals your lover is conveying to you in a restaurant. Perhaps a croque monsieur? That's kind of a knife-and-fork sandwich, but he did say he is in a café. If he was in a deli that wouldn't really wreck the rhyme, so I suppose it might be a fancy kind of sandwich. Come to think of it, "In a Subway" sort of fits too, but if he was in a sub shop he'd have said he was eating a meatball hero or something. "As I'm eating a Royal sub"... no, that really doesn't work.

Of course, the real problem is that the song is so very dull that the only thing interesting to contemplate is the sandwich (tuna? A nice grilled cheese and tomato?). The singer is sad about the relationship, but who cares? The sandwich is what engages our curiosity.  Maybe it was a club sandwich....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

This ranking of David Bowie albums pretty much corresponds with the way I'd rank them myself.

Phil Spector is a guy who I'd never want to meet, but there is no denying the contribution he made to music. He got it in a way that very few ever did, and if, on occasion, he made it more about himself than about the artists he was working with, well, that's understandable.
There's just certain people that just don't have it. Moby Grape will never be a contribution. There are a lot of groups that will never be a contribution. 'Cause if you listen to just one Muddy Waters record you've heard everything Moby Grape's gonna ever do. Or if you listen to one Jimmy Reed record you've heard everything they may want to do
It's sad that he is as mad as a March Hare, but it changes nothing.

Monday, March 18, 2013

To the Jim Cullum Jazz Band yesterday, the penultimate show in this season's Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz series. This is "traditional jazz", not usually my cup of meat. Even so, the exuberance and virtuosity on display, and the depth of the repertoire, made for a pretty irresistible afternoon of music. One of the things that marks the evolution of jazz is the change in instrumental lineups: Cullum plays cornet rather than trumpet; and clarinet is featured instead of saxophone. The result is a rather warmer sound overall, which was interesting. It was also interesting to consider that this music, invented by Buddy Boldin, and King Oliver, refined and perfected by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, is now white music. The audience was as old and white as you can imagine, and the band could have been the most swinging accountants' firm ever, and this is not a new development. After Armstrong the cornet player that everyone knows is Bix Beiderbecke, and, of course, Hogey Charmichael contributed as much to the traditional jazz canon as anyone. There are those who will tell you that bebop came about because African-American musicians resented white co-optation of "their" music, but I think it probably had more to do with the fact that segregation prevented people from playing together. Benny Goodman resisted it, and benefited creatively, after all, and as American apartheid loosed up guys like Red Rodney or Gerry Mulligan contributed to the various new sounds that were becoming popular. Listening to Cullum and the guys in his band it was hard not to wonder what directions their music might have gone in had it not become fixed in amber. There was plenty of happy improvisation, and swing, and soul in evidence, but even though much of the material was unfamiliar to me I never had the sense that at any moment I would be surprised, and they really never got around to blowing the roof down either.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

When I first started working in lower Manhattan one of my regular haunts was Chase Manhattan Plaza. The space was dominated by Jean Dubuffet’s Group of Four Trees, which is still one of my favorite pieces of public art. The plaza itself was large, open and shaded, and you could sit there and feel a little relieved from the canyon-like vertical oppression which contributes to the claustrophobia of the Financial District. It is a real feeling-- "Bartleby, the Scrivener" might be spotted in any of the windows around Wall Street at any moment. Come to find out that J.P. Morgan Chase has fenced it off, the sons of bitches. The reasons for closing access sound pretextual to me, and it is remarkable that in the 21st Century bankers can be bigger pricks than they were in the original Gilded Age.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What makes people think this Pope took his name from St. Francis of Assisi? I suspect not-- this cat is a Jesuit, which makes it likely that he has St. Francis Xavier in mind. It makes a difference.

I expect that this will have a big effect on people's NCAA pools. All of a  sudden Georgetown, Marquette and Gonzaga feel pretty lucky.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My first job out of law school was at Kelner & Kelner. Joseph Kelner was a remarkable person in many ways: one of them was that he was among the post WWII generation of lawyers that transformed torts by devising new liability arguments and new ways to quantify damages. I was there when he was involved in the Bernhard Goetz case (frankly, not his finest hour), and as I sit in my office I'm looking at his book about the Kent State lawsuit across the room on my shelf.

Kelner was among the first in the US to win a million dollar award for an injured plaintiff, and during my time there I saw him win quite a few more. (It is remarkable to think that $1 million was once like the four minute mile-- Joe Kelner wasn't the Roger Bannister of the seven figure award, but within my time practicing you used to be able to count the people who had done it on your fingers.) My time with the Kelners wasn't particularly long, although I still have occasion to reach out to Bob now and then. What was notable about it was that the work I was doing was almost exclusively high-end, sophisticated stuff. I learned a lot about how to work up a case there: those were big cases, and they spent the time necessary to see that all the pieces fit together.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

 Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing looks so good I may go to opening night cross-gartered and in yellow hose. (Yeah, yeah. I know that's Twelfth Night. I just thought that dressing up like Malvolio would be funnier than going as Harry Potter.)

I've been thinking about the upcoming Papal Enclave, and what I've been thinking is, "Why is this getting so much attention?" Okay, sure, there are a lot of Roman Catholics-- the CIA World Factbook says 16.8% of the world's population are Catholic. Roman Catholics seem to be the largest religious group with a single religious leader, too, so I guess that's a reason. It is also true that the Roman Catholic Church has been unusually visible as a criminal enterprise lately, and that its record in that regard has historically been significant. Given the particularly lurid nature of its offenses I suppose a fair amount of media coverage would be inevitable. Even so, at least as regards most American Catholics, it seems to me that the Popes are pretty irrelevant. Bishops and Archbishops and Cardinals mostly run the show-- they are the guys who are the CEOs of the dioceses-- they run the schools and the hospitals and the churches and the charities. I do not think that most American Catholics really care much about what Bishops and Archbishops and Cardinals have to say about the fine-grained issues of day-to-day religious practice however, and if that's true, why care about who the next Pope will be? People are going to use or not use contraception as they personally see fit. There was a brief moment when some people got all worked up about Affordable Health Care Act, but I think mostly everyone recognized that particular tempest for exactly the trivia it amounts to.

All that said, what I think it all comes down to is that what we are looking at is a kind of medieval circus. Red shoes and magic rings, and robes and murmured Latin. It all looks like a Harry Potter movie, and it has about as much relevance to the way people live. It's nice for the media-- they get a trip to Rome out of it. For the rest of us it seems rather silly.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Bob Dylan is kicking off his Spring tour at UB. He wants students to come, and he wants to thwart scalpers, so 4,500 tickets are being given away to students on the day of the show. The remaining tickets are being made available to faculty and staff before they go on sale to the general public. I checked my wallet, and there was a card that said that I am faculty, so when the announcement went up that the faculty/staff tickets were on sale I didn't even finish reading the email-- I just shot out to campus. I figured that faculty and staff are Bob's natural constituency, and was anticipating a throng of tweed jackets and gray ponytails.

That's not what I encountered, to say the least, but when I got into the car to go back to work Theme Time Radio was on the air, and the theme was "Luck".

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Baseball players and their dogs. Baseball cards from Milkbone.

Friday, March 01, 2013

A's iPad has a case with a keyboard. Last night she was doing something with it in the kitchen when 13 ran across the keyboard, in the manner of kittens. He launched himself into the air like Bob Beamon, using his powerful back claws for traction,  and in doing so dislodged the "F" key, sending it flying. We spent the rest of the evening cleaning the kitchen, trying to find it. When that didn't work I called Apple to make a "Genius Bar" appointment. "I need the 'F' key," I explained, "So I can write about the kitten that did this."

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