Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, May 30, 2005

On balance I think I'd have to say that the weather did everything that could be reasonably expected for a long weekend-- sure, it rained a little for the KRAC picnic, but just a little, and not enough to spoil anything. And if a little rain was the trade off for temperatures that were just about perfect for the Buffalo Marathon (we ran the Half Marathon, and it was great)-- well, that works for me. Today dawned glorious-- the sort of day you associate with May. I wasn't up for running, but CLA obligingly agreed to go on the first official Big Bike of the season, just the thing for the day after a hard run. Nothing too extreme, just up to Old Man River for an ice cream cone and back-- 25 miles and change, leaving me a little leg weary, but pleased with my day. We saw a heron, which is always nice. He flew right over us, and CLA said, "That's crazy," signaling her approval. She has become a much stronger rider, and I am looking forward to some longer rides-- she will be ready for them.

I really like the track along the river, but running it and biking it has made it a little more familiar than it once was, and I think I want to start exploring some other routes. We started doing this a little today-- on the way back we crossed the rail bridge over the canal by the Corps of Engineers and ran along the river in the stretch up from the Peace Bridge-- that's where we saw the heron, actually. I think this summer we may try exploring the southern reaches of Buffalo, terra incognito for me. The other possibility might be to go over the Grand Island Bridge and into Niagara County, or maybe into Canada. I love Memorial Day, when all of summer's promise is out there the way Christmas is on Thanksgiving.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I tell people that when I was a kid the only toys I had were a potato and a black crayon, but it's not really true. This site looks like the contents of our basement, circa 1968. Man, the Agent Zero M stuff was cool. Greenie Stick-um's-- there's a toy you'll never see again. Shown here: the Super Snooper Periscope. Mine was black, as I recall. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

50 Things Every Foodie Should Do. But I don't wanna milk a cow.... (Via Saute Wednesday.) Kind of a dumb list, actually. I mean, Make Toast, fine. Shuck An Oyster, yes, sure. Dismember A Chicken, absolutely. But the specific things in specific places is too precious. How much better to say that we should travel someplace for the specific purpose of eating its specialty. Eat a fish you caught yourself. (And cleaned, too.) Still, as precious as this list is, I suppose I could compose one enough like it to be a little embarassed. (Oh, and I'd say that for hot dogs, Ted's is what you want to go for-- a pastrami sandwich at Katz's would be my proposed substitute for the Observer's entry-- or a hot dog.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I was unsure about how I felt about the deal that spared the filibuster, but Kausfiles just put it into focus for me. On the one hand, the filibuster has traditionally been the tool of reactionary forces in our government; on the other hand, federal judges are appointed for life, and some system to prevent the sorts of appointments that Senator Schumer and others have been blocking has to be in place to insure the integrity of the system. Republicans used to favor the "hold" system, but they are utterly without scruple, and once they sensed that their foot was on the throat of the Democrats obviously they would take complete advantage. When I heard about the compromise my first reaction was that it came about because the Group of 14 valued the Senate as an institution more than they value the principles that might mitigate for or against a particular nominee or measure. I have strong feelings about Senatorial courtesy: because Senators are disinclined to speak ill of their collegues we ended up with John Ashcroft as Attorney General. If it is a default the result is intellectual laziness of the most dispicable sort. On the other hand, I believe strongly that process and institutions are important, and that without them we would find ourselves in far worse straits than we are at present. I think about the great scene in "A Man For All Seasons", when Thomas More remonstrates William Roper:

MORE: What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned on you -- where would you hide Roper, the laws all being flat?

And then I read Mickey Kaus' piece, that I linked to above, and it all came into focus for me: "Why, after all, are so many people in Washington attached to the Senate's "right to unlimited debate"? Is it because the filibuster--which effectively requires a supermajority to pass anything through the Senate-- guarantees "freedom of speech, freedom of debate and freedom to dissent in the United States Senate." (Sen. Byrd's modest version.) Or is it because the filibuster, and the exaggerated power it gives to both minorities and individuals, is the basis for much of the Senate's--indeed Washington's--corrupt cash economy? Without the filibuster, after all, senators in the minority party wouldn't be nearly as big a deal. They couldn't block legislation--so lobbyists wouldn't need to bribe them with campaign contributions. And honest, self-protective corporations wouldn't have to pay so many of these lobbyists to bribe them with campaign contributions."

In fact, there exists in our land a legislative body that operates on those lines: it is called the New York State Legislature, and it is a profoundly undemocratic institution. The influence of an individual member of the New York State Legislature is exactly proportionate to the willingness of the member to hew to the line drawn by the leadership of each house. If you play ball, there are member items, and patronage tidbits for you. And if you don't-- well, we don't know, because nobody has ever done that. They may not be even as bright as Senate Democrats, the members of the New York State Legislature, but they are bright enough to know what side the bread is buttered on, so they all play ball.

The Group of 14 rescued the US Senate from that fate, for the time being. I'm no fan of John McCain, but he brokered the right deal this time. What do you know, the patron saint of lawyers had the right argument this time too.

Bob Dylan's Birthday, an official Outside Counsel holiday.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Christgau writes this week about a band out of Buffalo called Wide Right that sounds like they really speak to the Buffalo experience with some verve. The principal, Leah Archibald, lives and works in Brooklyn now, and it doesn't look like they are coming to this area anytime soon, but I think I'd like to see them.

Friday, May 20, 2005

There is really no escaping the fact that CLA looks great playing sports.  Posted by Hello

Via North Coast, Benjamin Franklin on judicial selection: "Docr. Franklin observed that two modes of chusing the Judges had been mentioned, to wit, by the Legislature and by the Executive. He wished such other modes to be suggested as might occur to other gentlemen; it being a point of great moment. He would mention one which he had understood was practiced in Scotland. He then in a brief and entertaining manner related a Scotch mode, in which the nomination proceeded from the Lawyers, who always selected the ablest of the profession in order to get rid of him, and share his practice among themselves. It was here he said the interest of the electors to make the best choice, which should always be made the case if possible."

In fact, something like this used to be done: Ronald Reagan stopped using the American Bar Association's recommendations, and the practice was not officially resumed under Clinton. Of course, it sounds very funny to say that the Scotts picked the best to take them out of the competition, but the results must have been satisfactory. Our system is close to the opposite here in the Empire State: the lawyers who can't cut it in practice often seem to be the ones we end up before. Worse than that, we pay for the privilege: when people decide to run for judicial office the first thing that they do is to put the arm on every lawyer in town. The money they raise gets funneled into the party that has nominated them, where it is spent on whatever. The truth is that there is no reason in the world to elect judges-- the job they do has nothing to do with the popular will, and may run counter to it. A number of states use what is known as the Missouri System-- judges are first appointed, then must stand for election after a stated term. I see no sense in this-- lay people are not well equipped to evaluate the judiciary, and shouldn't trouble their pretty little heads about it. Good grief, when you consider what they pick in electing legislators it's a wonder that self government endures at all.

Dodd, at Ipsi Dixit, pointed to this decision, and particularly footnote 1, which is indeed brilliant.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

My business concluded, I had time to check out Danny Meyer's Shake Shack, and see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps not a hamburger epiphany, but mighty good I'd say. I had the Shack burger, which has lettuce, a slice of tomato that tasted like tomato, American cheese and "Shack Sauce"-- Russian dressing, more or less, a piquant accompaniment . I don't know where else in the city they have frozen custard, which is what they make their shakes from, but I passed on a shake and had a Duvel instead (they were out of Brooklyn Pils). I'd order the fries again, but only once more-- these crinkle cuts seemed like they might have potential, but my particular batch had been under the heat lamp too long. The burger was just right-- it came medium, juicy and delicious. I have to be in the mood for a hot dog, but the place also features a Chicago style dog that sounded tempting. Absolutely worth going back to-- the setting, in Madison Square Park, across the street from the Appellate Division, First Department, is one of my favorite corners of the city, and the burger lived up to its billing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Jonathan Schwartz on a new Sinatra biography. "What they write is sparse, superficial and often wrong: "[J]azz gave Sinatra his sense of rhythm and his lifelong readiness to improvise," they say. Deconstructing such a dramatically fallacious statement would require paragraphs. The essential facts are that, although jazz enriched Sinatra, he was never a jazz singer and rarely "improvised," as that term is used in jazz. As for rhythm, nothing or nobody gave it to him; it came naturally."

Why Schwartz has not written what would surely be the definitive work on Sinatra is a mystery to me. Nobody is better qualified.

EGA was home from school last week, and ran into a friend from high school who proposed that they go out that evening. I sometimes worry that EGA is insufficiently social, but my concerns are probably misplaced-- what I perceive as reticence is probably merely prudence, a quality profoundly lacking in my 19 year old self, and, some might argue, in my present makeup as well.

The friend is probably closer to what I was like back then, and as a result, even though I don't really know her, I regard her fondly, and am pleased that EGA is friends with her. As EGA subsequently related it, the evening was less than a smashing success, but it also sounded pretty hilarious. The friend, who is at school in a well known Catholic institution in the Crescent City, declared that the first order of business was to doctor up some proof, so they went to her house, where she had the necessary equipment. All it really took was a computer, a printer, and a sheet of transparent plastic. "Let me see your school ID," she commanded. "Please be careful," EGA reports she said, "I need it to take books out of the library." The compromise was to not run the thing under an iron, resulting in some pretty fake looking fake ID. The bouncer at the first bar they went to demonstrated the vigilance typical of his profession: "I really shouldn't take this," he said, "But for tonight...." and he waived them in. Somewhere along the way they met a couple of tipsy young chiropractors out on the town, and spent part of the evening trying to listen to their flirtatious conversation over the music. At some point they adjourned to the ladies' room. "How's your headache?" the friend asked. "What do you mean?" asked EGA, "I don't--" at this point I imagine the friend's eyerolling must have been nearly audible, and she picked up the subtle cue. They slipped away into the night, leaving broken hearts in their wake.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

I'm sure I've posted along these lines before, and I'm pretty sure Scheherazade was the one who got me going on the subject then, too, but it is an interesting question-- what do you think you know more about than 9 out of ten randomly selected people? "[N]ot expert status, but topics or situations where I think that if you selected 10 people at random, I'd trust myself and my own knowledge and expertise better than at least 9 of them." She goes on to list areas about which 9 out of ten people probably know more, and this is also an interesting question-- maybe a better question, since I think the default would be to dismiss such topics as "things I am not interested in". Since I take some pride in my intellectual curiosity, I should not dismiss subjects about which I am ignorant-- but I really can't bring myself to care much about the NBA. I find that I know quite a lot less about South America than I am happy about-- I was trying to remember why Brazil is not a Spanish speaking country the other day, and all I could recall was that it had something to do with some sort of compromise brokered by a Pope. Come to think of it, the political geography of the Southern Hemosphere is more of a blank to me than it should be. I could use some brushing up in the history of the 19th Century-- and of the early 20th Century too, although perhaps the nine of ten are likewise working at a disadvantage on these topics as well. Chances are that most people function more comfortably with simple arithmetic than I do-- that is probably closer to the spirit of the question. Saying that you don't know much about telivision, or popular actors, or popular music is really a form of showing off, I think-- I'll stay away from that. Don't know how to make my lawn look good, couldn't perform any sort of car maintainence beyond changing oil or a tire (bought a Volvo, don't have too). Hmm. I know that by posting this I am inviting people to fill me in on the gaps-- why is it that when other people post on this sort of thing, the people who comment relate their own knowledge gaps? One more thing everyone else know that I don't, I guess.

Friday, May 13, 2005

"I still feel like the same person," Dylan told the photographer Richard Avedon's collaborator Doon Arbus in 1997, talking about the milieu where from 1960 to 1965 he did his work. "One of the feelings of it was that you were part of a very elite, special group that was outside and downtrodden. You felt like you were part of a different community, a more secretive one. And this community spread out across America ... every little city you went to, if you knew who to call, what to look for, you could find ... like-minded people.

"That's been destroyed. I don't know what destroyed it. Some people say it's still there. I hope it is. I know, in my mind, that I'm still a member of a secret community. I might be the only one, you know?"

I just don't see any way around it: I'm reading Greil Marcus' book this weekend.

Respectable lineup for Thursday in the Square this summer: May 26, Southside Johnny (best show they had last year); June 23, Eric Burdon and the Animals (why not?); June 30, Little Feat (why not?); July 14, Dr. John (I think of him as something of a poser-- but I guess he's not); August 4, Ian Hunter (how could this not be cool?); August 18 The Campbell Brothers open for Soulive (can't wait to see The Campbell Brothers again). Along with some other stuff that looks good too.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I'm not a big fan of Surrogate's Court, an institution that mostly exists to steal the pennies off dead men's eyes, and distribute them as patronage-- even when the Surrogate is honest, the lower levels can be corrupt, and the court itself does nothing that Supreme Court wouldn't be competent to do. I will never forget trying to file a wrongful death compromise petition in mumblemumble county and seeing the clerk shake my papers like a birthday card. "Looking for the Green Affidavit" is the expression for that, and if you don't think it happens, I know a big rabbit who would like to sell you a bridge.

In fact, I seldom have occasion to go to Surrogate's Court, and I suppose I should count my blessings. The race for New York County Surrogate shapes up as an interesting one-- I'm not surprised that it is hotly contested, since the fees that are there to be ladled out must be some of the nicest anywhere. Can't say as I know the other two, but I've appeared before Kristen Booth Glen, and believe her to be the sort of person I'd trust with the job.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I wasn't going to post on this, but then I saw Kottke's post on spilling maple syrup, ("My first reaction upon seeing the sticky pointy superhero of a mess was to abandon all my possessions and move immediately to a new apartment. After seriously considering that for a few seconds, I then decided to leave it for the ants.") and now I think we can get some sort of a meme going.

As is my custom, I made mint syrup for juleps on Derby Day. The problem with mint juleps is that the recipe for simple syrup necessary to make them yields roughly enough to make about 40 cocktails. Now, heaven knows I'm not one to complain about too many cocktails, but the race is two minutes long, and truth to tell, I really prefer my bourbon neat. So if A has one, and I have one, that leaves me with a lot of greenish syrup. In years past I have kept this in the refrigerator, and that works fine-- some time around Thanksgiving I will say, "What the hell is this?" and throw it out. This time, for some reason, I poured it into a mason jar and put some plastic wrap over it, thinking that perhaps another julep might be refreshing later in the week, I guess. I left it on the counter, because I didn't want it to crystallize.

Last night at dinner A announced, "You have to throw out your stupid mint syrup." "Okay honey," I meekly replied, "Why?". "It is full of ants," she replied, establishing once and for all who it is in our household who is constitutionally incapable of throwing anything away. I mean, a jar of mint syrup is one thing-- I'd have thrown it away ultimately, but in the meantime there may have been occasion to use a tablespoon or so of it. Confronted with a jar of mint syrup full of ants, however, A did not throw it away-- even though she knew that this was something that should be done. She didn't, because she can't. I guess it comes down to a matter of degrees, or something. Anyway, there is still bourbon, which will be drunk neat.

I should have been more creative. Posted by Hello

I took a couple of photographs of the trip to the Power Vista. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Steely Dan Dictionary. (Thanks, Ginger!)

To the Niagara Power Vista this morning, with LCA's 6th Grade class. This is a pretty universal field trip in Western New York, but since I didn't grow up here, I'd never been. When I asked about it, people would roll their eyes, but I like that kind of thing. I've driven past it, of course, a big concrete structure on the edge of the gorge, and I've always thought it would be kind of neat to take the tour, so I was pleased when I was asked to chaperone.

Too bad it is so beat, because the potential is terrific. Unfortunately what the tour consists of is a visit to a fairly sterile visitor's center, resembling a Thruway rest area without the Ben & Jerrys. There are some fairly standard children's science museum grad exhibits about electricity-- you know, cranks you turn to make lights light, that sort of thing, and a big diorama of the Upper and Lower Niagara Rivers, and the facility. I liked that-- you can see the courthouse, and for the first time I understood how the thing works. Living in this part of the world I'm aware of the Falls, and I know there is a lot of electricity generated here, but I was never really clear on the relationship between the two. Come to find out, there isn't one-- the water to run the plant is taken in two and a half miles upriver from the Falls (I knew that, actually), and run through pipes under the City of Niagara Falls over to the powerplant in Lewiston. It would have been a great tour if they showed you the water, and the turbines, and a movie about Robert Moses extending his arm over the Niagara River to produce electricity, but what you get is the demo stuff I've described, a video about not touching wires, and an demonstration with a Van de Graff generator. I mean, c'mon-- you have all kinds of hydropower-- who wants static electricity stuff that Michael Faraday's family found dull?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

To Guinga last night, the concluding event of this year's Albright-Knox Microsoft Art of Jazz series, and the final stop on his first North American tour. We really didn't know what to expect with this performance, but a leap of faith with Bruce Eaton is an easy step to take. We knew that Guinga was Brazilian, and Eaton may have mentioned that he has a day job as a dentist. I assumed guitar, and went in figuring that, except for the dentist part we knew enough to be confident of hearing something at least pleasant, even if it turned out to be nothing more.

As it happened, it turned out to be a great deal more, informed by Brazilian musical traditions, but informed as well by American popular standards from the 30's and 40's, and mostly sounding like straight-on be-bop. Two guitars, supplemented by clarinet (which gave things a Gershwin feel,) and a trumpeter/flugelhorn who blasted licks that reminded me of Dizzy Gillespie. Mostly it was very fast, witty unison playing, broken up with an occasional solo by one of the horns while the guitars vamped behind. The playing was incredible-- the kind of thing that just makes you laugh when you realize what they have done, the way a Charley Parker solo works-- and you could see that they knew it too. They were on, and they were amazing. Guinga has big hands, and worked up and down the fretboard mostly picking out rhythm licks behind the lead playing of Lula Galvão on a hollow-bodied electric guitar. It was great to watch-- they were in perfect synch together, running down the changes at breakneck speed, usually with a look of concentration, occasionally glancing over to the other, just to make sure they were going to the same place, then finishing with a flourish, and breaking into smiles.

The CD I picked up will take some listening-- it is very orchestral, and not what we had last night. I get the feeling that Guinga has decided that the time is right to turn towards music. He is established in Brazil, but his dental practice is what pays the bills. He doesn't speak much English, but he mentioned that his two daughters are now 22 and 24-- a good time in his life to start seeking out a larger audience.

Friday, May 06, 2005

I don't really use my computer for listening to stuff, but I may have to make an exception for Honest With Me: Musical Stories on Bob Dylan. Is it just me, or has interest in Dylan actually re-ignited? That's the sort of thing a Nexus search would show, I suppose. I'd be willing to bet that the period of time that runs from about "Street Legal" to about "Good As I Been To You" there were probably about as many Dylan mentions in the press as there presently are a month. What is frustrating is that most of the current stories are all the same old stories-- Greenwich Village, "Don't Look Back", Woodstock, blah, blah, blah. What would be interesting would be accounts of what went on during the period when he fell off the map. Musically this time is spotty, at best, but the guy must have been doing something interesting. The little bit I've read from his autobiography makes it pretty clear that he became very jealous of his privacy, but he remained a public figure, and very visible for a long time after that-- I don't think his fade into obscurity was entirely voluntary. He has a birthday coming up, you know-- an important holiday on the Outside Counsel calendar. (Via Metafilter.)

iTunes directed me to a collection called "70's One Hit Wonders". My It is like a museum of badness: "Play That Funky Music". "Me and Mrs. Jones". "Precious and Few". "Funkytown". "Brandy" (Worst. Song. Ever.) There are also some things that I'm pretty sure I can't live without-- Argent's "Hold Your Head Up". Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell In Love". Mungo Jerry, "In the Summertime". The only T.Rex song anyone needs, "Bang A Gong" ("Jeepster" is for specialists).

Thursday, May 05, 2005

When I was in high school, working in downtown NYC, a great cheap lunch was char siu bao-- baked roast pork buns. You could get a couple for a buck, and they were terrific. The pork had that slightly sweet, kind of anise flavor that Chinese barbeque gets, and the bus themself were slightly sweet too, with good resistence and nice mouth-feel. They aren't all that easy to find, so when I see them, I always get a couple. Now I am tempted to make them myself.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

At the risk of looking like an old hippie, yeah, I'd go see Cream, I guess. In an essay somewhere Nick Hornby talks about slipping out of a Zep show to have a pint during "Moby Dick". I can imagine doing the same for "Toad" (slip, hell, I can imagine heading for the door at a dead run), but if the drum solo is only five minutes long, the band would be 3/4ths through "White Room" when I got back, and that would leave me pretty put out.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

"Stardust" Hoagy Carmichael; "Body and Soul" Coleman Hawkins; "I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man." Muddy Waters; "Giant Steps" John Coltrane; "The Girl from Ipanema" Stan Getz, Joao Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto; "Live at the Apollo" James Brown; "Pet Sounds"; The Beach Boys; "Fear of a Black Planet", Public Enemy; "Nevermind", Nirvana. Pretty good list, and those are just the ones I own. The National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress 2004 additions also includes, inter alia, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown", Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs; Songs by Tom Lehrer; The Allman Brothers Band at Fillmore East; and a field recording of elephants.(Via

Monday, May 02, 2005

An excellent essay on why Bruce Springsteen is what he is today, by Stephen Metcalf.

"Springsteen is no longer a musician. He's a belief system. And, like any belief system worth its salt, he brooks no in-between. You're either in or you're out. This has solidified Bruce's standing with his base, for whom he remains a god of total rock authenticity. But it's killed him with everyone else. To a legion of devout nonbelievers— they're not saying 'Bruuuce', they're booing—-- Bruce is more a phenomenon akin to Dianetics or Tinkerbell than "the new Dylan," as the Columbia Records promotions machine once hyped him. And so we've reached a strange juncture. About America's last rock star, it's either Pentecostal enthusiasm or total disdain."

Metcalf's hypothesis is that Jon Landau is responsible for turning The Boss into a sort of Chevy pickup balladeer, but I'm not so sure that this is entirely fair to either man-- for sure Bruce went willingly, and I have no doubt that Landau is fan, and always was. Rock'n'roll has to be careful about sinking into self-parody; it is one of the risks of the business, and not many white guys can pull it off. I'd say Jerry Lee Lewis managed to hang on to his authenticity, and I suppose Keith has, but the Stones are teetering on the edge. Dylan seems to have, but one way that he has done it is by just keeping on, even if nobody cares. Maybe Lou Reed. Patti Smith. Anyone else? I'll think about it and get back to you.

The anchor anecdote of Springsteen's last tour was that in the post September 11 days someone driving by yelled to him, "We need you." That would be asking a lot of anyone, and it was certainly more than was fair to put on a guy whose best stuff is about hanging out with your buddies-- "Slackers," as the KRAC Captain might put it, "Before they invented the word for it." Give the guy credit for trying-- I don't read the real John Steinbeck anymore, but I recognize his work for being a sincere effort. I'm more likely to re-read "The Red Pony" than I am to pick up a copy of "Devils & Dust", but I have to admit that Metcalf has made me a little curious.

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