Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Okay, now Buffalo is going to get a Bass Pro shop. Our city fathers have been trying to get this deal done for three years, and they are almost there. 400 jobs, they say, but I'm still not clear on the cost. The press release states that the federal, state and local governments are committing about $66 million: $31 million in federal funding, to be used for an intermodal transportation station and 1,000-space parking ramp, along with a Great Lakes-themed museum to be connected to the store; and about $14 million from Erie County and the City of Buffalo Presumably this latter is in the form of property tax relief, rather than fresh money, at a time when the county is looking to bump the local sales tax, and may well be looking to increase property taxes down the road. If I were the owner of a local hotel-- or restaurant, for that matter, I'd be pretty put out about the big bait shop being subsidized by my taxes-- even if it's true that Bass Pro is a Mecca for out of state sportsmen, what good would that do me if they are eating and staying at Chez Bass Pro?

I'd love to see someone run the numbers on this deal, which seems like it stinks like a three day old mackerel.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Nick Hornby interviews Sarah Vowell, whose new book, "Assassination Vacation" includes a section on the assassination of William McKinley, here in Buffalo. From time to time, walking past the marble obelisk in front of City Hall that memorializes McKinley, I think about how this national tragedy has so faded into the past that really nobody thinks about why parkways and high schools around here are named for him. Buffalo was the hometown of two Presidents before McKinley: I expect that two out of three people would tell you that this was where McKinley was from, too. The actual site of the shooting is marked by a small plaque on a stone in the middle of a grassy meridian on a nondescript middle class residential street-- if you didn't make a point of finding it, you'd never know it was there. At one time Buffalo was associated with this event the way that Dallas evoked Kennedy-- I wonder if Dallas still carries that meaning for people?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I didn't know about Pitchfork, but now I do, a way into the rock'n'roll that I've known is out there, but have had to rely on EGA to find out about.

Since I don't play, and I can't sing, rock crit looked like in was the only path available to me, and 'till there were blogs I didn't know where the path was. By then it was too late. "A Lester Bangs–type critic doesn’t exist anymore in America, because magazines don’t really trash records anymore—they’re way too dependent on that label’s advertising dollars. Everything out there in print is sugar-coated...."

Not Pitchfork. Sample capsule: "Okay, wait. Jimmy Eat world have released a new song and called it... "Pain"? This is actually great. I hope this monosyllabic truth-in-advertising extends to singles from other artists. Look out for the Rolling Stones' "Old", Linkin Park's "Angst", R.E.M.'s "Dull", and "Dead" from Nirvana's upcoming box set. Under-thought title aside, this track is at best holding status quo for the band. It's simply a minor-key inversion of the same simple but lovable power-chord hooks and incidental electronics that made "The Middle" an unfortunate smash, but with a less persistent chorus. I'll grant them that they've kept their sound and their place on the radio dial intact, which is nothing to sneeze at, but on the other hand-- well, just replace the word "pain" from the frathouse shouting that precedes each chorus with, say, "thirst," and you've got yourself a damn fine beverage commercial."

I'm coming back to this site.

Good essay by Terry Teachout on Johnny Mercer. I don't know if it is completely accurate to say that, "Mercer was one of the few major American songwriters who were not big-city Easterners"-- it seems to me that more than a few of the people who qualify as "major American songwriters" were not big city Easterners. Mercer's collaborator, Hogey Carmichael was from Indiana; Howard Arlen was from Buffalo. Dorothy Fields was from small town New Jersey. Cole Porter, famously, was from Peru, Indiana. It is not even accurate to say that Mercer evokes "Americana" in some way that is different than others-- more than "Carousel"? All songwriters from this period were evoking Americana-- as Carmichael once said, "Nobody ever lost money writing about the South." I'll go along with the proposition that Mercer's lyrics have a poetic quality that is distinctive, and I think that it is interesting that Teachout attributes this to Mercer's decision to work in Hollywood rather than on Broadway-- there is probably something to that.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Upon the (second hand) recomendation of Margot K. we rented The Ladykillers this weekend. I'd given it a miss during its theatrical run, notwithstanding my affection for the Cohen brother's work, due to the tepid critical reception it received, and my own abiding affection for the original. My mistake. Although the two movies share a plot, and even though Tom Hanks is plainly doing his level best to chanel Alec Guinness through a southern accent, in fact the newer movie is after something altogether different than was the original. Actually, when I think about it, this "Ladykillers" is doing what the Cohens have been doing right along: it is a portrait of the America that I don't understand. There is a hilarious scene towards the middle when one of the white charactors confronts Marlon Wayans' charactor, telling him that he'd been a Freedom Rider in the '60's, and had come to the South to fight for black people's right to vote. "Well," says Gawain, "The joke's on you-- because I don't vote." I am not going to move to Canada, tempting as the thought is, but I will continue to marvel at the ability and willingness of Red State America to act in a way that seems against its own best interests. Maybe I do, too, since I continue to believe in the things that Dr. Dean stands for-- and continue to think that Dean would have presented a clearer choice, and might have done better. I've said before that the difference between a Senate Democrat and a sheep is that a sheep is good for wool. I hope they make a better showing this term, but I think we need to look outside D.C. for leadership in the Democratic Party if we are going to have a prayer of appealing to the people the Cohens portray. Loved the music, too, by the way. Say what you will about Red State America-- the music is good. Posted by Hello

Friday, November 19, 2004

Outside Counsel does not rate particularly high when you search Google for "Spencer Tunick in Buffalo", but this site does, and I've been seeing quite a bit of traffic from there in recent days. The August 15 post is what they are looking for.

Flush with the sucess of my journalistic debut with Buffalo Spree, I asked about becoming a regular contributor. "How about a column on gadgets?" they suggested, so I've been doing a little research. It's a crowded field, gadget journalism, and I really don't buy a lot of stuff-- but sometimes things catch your eye. I found this on this site, and the review itself is worth quoting in its entirety: "We weren’t able to find a place to park our boom car when we moved to Manhattan (that might explain why the girls from JJ Fad stopped kicking it with us around that time), which is why the Audio Backpack will just have to do. It’s a backpack with flap-mounted two directional 5 watt speakers that can be repositioned for maximum annoyingness to your fellow pedestrians and subway riders. There is, of course, a slot for holding your MP3 player or CD player (or Walkman, if you still swing that way), and they claim that you should be able to get ten hours of public nuisance-time before you’ll have to replace or recharge its six AA batteries." Posted by Hello

Thursday, November 18, 2004

A Happy Birthday shout out to EGA. As Muddy Waters says, "She's nineteen years old/And got ways just like a baby child." Except that only half of that statement is true in her case.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Greil Marcus has edited an anthology about American ballads with historian Sean Wilentz, and talks to Salon about it
"Q: About a year ago, one of your contributors, Howard Hampton, told me that he thinks there are many Americans now who no longer have a sense of the past as a real place. And reading through the book it struck me that each of these pieces, in its own way, is an affirmation of the past as a real place.

G.M.: Well, a real place that we still live in, that we carry with us whether we know it or not, that can't ever be escaped. I mean, there are lines throughout the book where this comes across to me -- they're almost dreamlike in the way that they carry you to another country, which someone once said the past is. The first line in Ann Powers' piece on "The Water Is Wide": "In this part of the story, nothing happens." What could be more alluring? You know: Tell me about the part where nothing happens, because obviously, that's where everything happens. It's an incredible invocation of suspense. And then there's David Thomas, saying just bluntly, "Thomas Alva Edison is the father of Elvis." And there, if in fact you live your life according to the notion that the past is not a real place, one simple line like that, a few words, immediately pulls the ground out from under your feet."

Every culture occupies its past in some way: one of the things that I think is an interesting contrast between Europe and America is the way that the two cultures relate to their histories. Europe's past is so toxic that a great deal of energy is spent supressing it; from time to time something happens and it comes boiling to the surface, in Serbia or places like that, or France's National Front. Our history, no less toxic, seems often to be subsumed into various alternative creation myths-- the Founding Fathers as Olympian deities, which becomes a twisted form of jurisprudence, for example; or the idea of the South as an agrarian paradise lost, as in "Gone With the Wind" (or "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down", for that matter). The idea of the "weird, old America" is one of Marcus' great themes, of course; in Texas last week I realized that place has never gone away, and is where a lot of people still live. I don't mean that Dallas is that place, of course, although Dallas is certainly a different country from the one I live in-- but you can see the place that Marcus is talking about from there.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

"On the Utility of Minneapolis-St. Paul as a Base of Operations for Various Well-Known Superheroes or Super Teams". (Via Making Light. Have I mentioned lately how cool Teresa Nielsen Hayden is?)

I love the Academy of Hospitality Industry Attorneys: the meetings are notable for the substantive excellence of the programs and their luxurious surroundings. Last year we were at the Chicago Four Seasons-- perhaps the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in. This year we were at the Hotel ZaZa, in Dallas, a hotel in the Ian Schrager mode. Dimly lit, with black attired, ubiquitous staff, tres chic and quirky. Bowls of DumDum lollipops here and there, eclectic art in the public areas and the rooms had amenities I've never seen before. The best had to be the "Shag Bag", a cellophane package with condoms, herbal aphrodisiacs and Altoids. The gym wasn't much (they are building a bigger one) but the spa was amazing, with an elaborate menu of cures and treatments, many designed as hangover cures. ("Day After Delight (1.5 hours). This package caters to those that know the importance of refreshing one's soul so the party can continue to go on and on. Take time to revitalize your body in our 'Hangover Lift' oxygenation bath followed by a 'Stress be off my Face' facial. Delight when others marvel at how well put together you are for another evening of energized socializing. $140"). I must report, with regret, that I did not have the time (or the need) to indulge in any of these, but just knowing that it was there somehow made me feel better.

Monday, November 15, 2004

When I was in high school I read and re-read the Paris Review "Writers at Work" interview series until I could practically quote most of them. Now they are being put online, and I can hardly wait to revisit them.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

The good news, I suppose, is that John Ashcroft has resigned. Count on it, though, one of the reasons he has decided to move on is that g-d is telling him that it is his turn next. I don't know how likely it is that the Republican Party would nominate John Ashcroft-- at this point I have to say that my finger is pretty far off the pulse of the 'Murican electorate's. Ashcroft doesn't have that problem. Count on it: the Good Lord is telling him exactly how to close the deal.

Over the course of my time in our glamour profession I have found that William S. Boroughs got it exactly right: "If you're doing business with a religious son of a bitch, get it in writing."

Oh, and if you thought that Ashcroft was bad, fasten your seatbelts.

Friday, November 05, 2004

People tell me it's a crime
To remember her for too long a time
She should have caught me in my prime
She would have stayed with me
Instead of going back off to sea
And leaving me to med-i-tate...

Here's an excellent essay on Dylan, via Mr. Sun.

I whine enough when we take a tough verdict-- today we took a nice one, for a 33 year old woman with a rare, sad neuro-vascular disorder who was hit by a car when she was in a crosswalk, and ended up suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She'd seen a lot of doctors, but none of them could figure out what her problem was-- my partner finally figured it out, and sent her to a neuropsychologist. The implication defense counsel tried to raise was that we sent this woman to this doctor to puff up her case, instead of what we had actually done, which was to send her to someone who could help her.

It is nicer to take a verdict like that on the receiving end, I can tell you, and both of us feel like we really accomplished something good for our client.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Mindful of the fact that there are some people who read Outside Counsel that don't read the KRAC Blog, I feel compelled to direct that set of readers to Tom Knab's excellent post citing Garry Willis op ed about what the election demonstrates that our country has become. "America, the first real democracy in history, was a product of Enlightenment values - critical intelligence, tolerance, respect for evidence, a regard for the secular sciences. Though the founders differed on many things, they shared these values of what was then modernity. They addressed "a candid world," as they wrote in the Declaration of Independence, out of "a decent respect for the opinions of mankind." Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more, when a poll taken just before the elections showed that 75 percent of Mr. Bush's supporters believe Iraq either worked closely with Al Qaeda or was directly involved in the attacks of 9/11.

"The secular states of modern Europe do not understand the fundamentalism of the American electorate. It is not what they had experienced from this country in the past. In fact, we now resemble those nations less than we do our putative enemies."

The whole essay expresses better than I have been able to the despair I feel over what America now represents to the rest of the world-- and why. Go read it.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Beth says it beautifully: "As a well-established, middle-class, educated liberal, I do most of my voting based on issues that will never affect me personally. I am too old and too female to worry about a draft. I don’t have kids of my own so education issues do not affect me directly. I have health care; I have reasonably solid retirement investments. I have a job. I can pay for my own schooling, and so can Jeremy.

"He is also too old to draft; he can pay for his education; he has good and solid retirement investments. I am almost too old to ever need an abortion, and I am probably too old to ever want one. If I really needed or wanted one, I could probably get one even if they were suddenly outlawed in California. Jeremy and I are far too old to suddenly embark on a life of crime, so criminal justice issues don’t really affect us. (In fact, the darker things get in that realm, the better my job prospects.) We aren’t gay, we worry about privacy issues in the abstract but really aren’t the kind of people who need to worry about a knock on the door in the dead of the night. Absent some giant administrative fuck-up somewhere, neither of us is ever going to be in a position to say, “You got a warrant, officer?”

The issue that affects us the most on a personal level is taxes, and we keep voting to raise those. Futilely, as it turns out; our state and our country just spiral deeper and deeper into debt, and they don’t want our money.

So when we vote, we are voting for other people. We vote for the poor, we vote for the incarcerated, we vote for the mentally ill, we vote for the disenfranchised. And we vote for the young."

Beth is angry that the people that we both believed we were trying to help by voting for Kerry didn't turn out (read the whole thing-- like everything she says it is smack on). I'm mad about it, too, but I wasn't voting for a generic class of person-- I was voting for my three daughters, and it breaks my heart that they are going to live in a country like what this country is becoming.

Man, Election Day is like the worst Christmas ever.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I was 128 at about 7:50 this morning, and the line was 15 minutes long. There were people there that I'd never seen before, and based on the time some were taking on a fairly simple ballot, I suspect that there were more than a few first-time voters on line in front of me.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Although it is not usually remembered that way, 1968 was a spectacularly close race: Nixon polled 31,770,237 votes, 43.4% (301 Electoral votes); Humphrey pulled in 31,270,5331 for 42.7% (191 Electoral votes); and Wallace tallied 9,906,141, 13.5 % (46 Electoral votes). On this map Humphrey is red, Wallace is green and Nixon is blue-- there are some states that look different tonight (notably Texas and New Jersey) but the map hasn't really changed all that much, and it is possible that the cultural issues that presently divide us haven't changed much, either.

What they say about Humphrey is that he ran out of time. I hope that Kerry had enough time. As bad as Nixon was-- and I want to be clear about this, he was plenty bad-- he was Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt all rolled into one compared to Bush. Bush's father looks statesmanlike compared to his son, and the senior Bush was as lightweight a President as the Union had seen since-- I don't know, James A. Garfield, maybe? Franklin Pierce?

The list of truly bad presidents is a short one. I guess we've been lucky, although it is also true that a lot of the 19th century guys with the big sideburns and whatnot had the advantage of serving during a time when the real action was in Congress. Harding. Hoover. Nixon. None of these guys are in a league with Bush, who is so bad, in so many ways, that it is difficult to know where to begin the catalogue. I suppose I am grateful that he hasn't suspended the election-- I've worried about the idea that he might for nearly four years now.

It'll be all about turnout, I hope. If we are blessed, it will not be about counting, but I am not optimistic, and I'm mighty glad A. is helping to keep it honest in the Sunshine State.

LCA has asked to accompany me to the polls tomorrow morning. I'll let her pull the lever-- you can't start participating too early, I reckon.

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