Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I haven't hopped on the podcast train to date, but By Neddie Jingo! has pointed me to
Jason Chervokas' Down in the Flood, and that looks like just the place to get started. Musing on the topic of what Dylan is out there that I'd prefer to the tenth iteration of "A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall" it occurs to me that we know there's all kinds of Basement Tapes stuff out there that only Greil Marcus seems to have heard. It is interesting that Dylan has been such a careful steward of his work that he now has stuff like the Royal Albert Hall concert and the other stuff that he has been releasing as "The Bootleg Series"-- but there has to be stuff that's more interesting than most of what we have seen so far.

"To her mind, every traditional topping must be represented, and the shopper should accept no substitutes. "Ketchup should be Heinz. Mayonnaise should be Best Foods in the West, Hellmann's in the East."" Step by step, the components of the perfect burger. (Via The Morning News.)

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Although I didn't rush out and buy women's underwear when Dylan's Victoria's Secret commercial was running, I made a point of getting my coffee at Starbucks this morning, in order to pick up a copy of "Live at The Gaslight 1962". Something tells me I'd have enjoyed a teddy more, but as a document this captures the Bard of Hibbing right at one of those moments when he is turning from one thing into another. For the most part what we have with Dylan sides is a representation of what he has become-- the transitions occur in between releases, which accounts, in part, to the hostility his performances were sometimes met with in those early days.

Part of that hostility can also be accounted for by the nature of the audience, too, I think. In the same time period Miles Davis was releasing one groundbreaking side after another, with critics sing hosannahs over the fact that each represented a stylistic breakthrough. The difference is that Dylan was playing to folk music fans, who prized tradition; Miles was playing to jazz fans, who value improvisation and innovation. (Some of them, anyway. Jazz fans are just as capable of ossification.)

Related (somewhat): Nick Hornby interviews Bruce Springsteen.

Update: Jon Pareles does a great job on this in today's NYTimes, as nice a bit of RockCrit as I've seen in some time. "Gaslight" turns out to be an oddly documented document: there is no indication as to who the Benedetti was, and the notes conceed that this is probably taken from two different performances. Even so, it's a terrific recording, with Dylan in great voice, and you can see why the folkies were so reluctant to give him up to the gods of rock'n'n'roll-- this is one of the best versions of "Barbara Allen" I've ever heard, and throughout old Bob sings the hell out of this material. We are all a little tired of folkie Bob Dylan, I think, but if you own his first album and "Freewheeling" you want to have this. And if you don't? Well, I'm not sure why we are talking then, actually, but if you happen to be having a cup of coffee, this might be something you could buy that would make you more hip. Maybe. Me, I've been planing my cup of coffee since I heard this was how the side was coming to market, and I'm pretty pleased with it. I wish I could say the same about the blueberry scone.

Monday, August 29, 2005

My visit to the UK inspired an article for the forthcoming Squealer on survelence, a topic I have long been interested in. If I go back and tart it up for a law-related journal, I will want to reference this excellent essay.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

My beach reading included two books assigned by KRAC Captain Tom Knab, Kitty Kelley's "His Way: The Unauthorized Biography Of Frank Sinatra" and Will Freidwald's "Sinatra! The Song Is You: A Singer's Art". "Read them in that order," I was instructed, so I did. The Kelly book is quite a piece of work. I suppose if you grew up with Sinatra, the way our parents did, a great deal of it would be familiar; as it is, I knew the broad outlines. Oddly, though, a reader unfamiliar with Sinatra could read this doorstop and come away with no idea of why the thug the book chronicles is of any interest at all. Kelly spends more time on the (mostly terrible) movies that Sinatra was in than on any aspect of his music-- and gives as much attention to tripe like "The Naked Runner" or "Von Ryan's Express" as to "High Society" or "Guys and Dolls" or "The Man With The Golden Arm". Even the treatment of "From Here To Eternity" focuses more on the gossip about how he got the part than on what made his performance notable. (She concludes that a important reason that so many Sinatra movies are terrible is that he didn't rehearse, and deliberately gave off-hand performances in order to deflect criticism. Maybe so, but this doesn't account for the poor script selection, or the fantastic performances he was capable of. He is great in "The Manchurian Candidate"-- why is he even doing "Robin and the Seven Hoods"?)

I suppose we all know that Sinatra was capable of tremendous cruelty, and his antipathy towards the press and love of crude racist jokes is pretty well established. Kelley tries to balance this by documenting his philanthropy and his acts of generosity towards friends, but what we are left with is a picture of a man full of contradictions, rather than an understanding of why the man was like that. "expediency" seems to satisfy Kelley when it comes to answering why a Stevenson/Kennedy/Humphrey liberal became a fixture in the Reagan circle, (and an Agnew pal) but there must be more to it than that.

Ultimately, though, it is the missing music that makes the book feel empty-- ground that Freidwald's book covers expertly. Sinatra is one of the most important musicians America produced in the 20th Century, and it is much more interesting to know that the valve trombonist on "Night and Day" was from the Ellington band than it is to read about a bodyguard smashing a photographer's camera. "I'm A Fool To Want You" is much more interesting than the stories about Sinatra and Ava Gardner throwing ashtrays at each other. In the end Kelley's book is a carefully researched piece of work that deserves props for that quality. Unfortunately it does not explain much, and although it is reasonably objective journalism, it is clear that Ms. Kelley is not fond of her subject. If it were about a less significant character I'd have put it down after about 200 pages.

Freidwald tells us about song structure, and recording sessions, and the musician's strikes and recording bans, and the aesthetic decisions and stylistic choices Sinatra and his various arrangers made; contrasts versions of different songs (there's a great discussion of how "Night And Day"'s structure works). If I have a criticism, it would be that at times Freidwald is a little too inside baseball. I've been listening to this music for years, including Sunday mornings spent with Jonathan Schwartz's scholarly discussions, but some of this (discussions of available in England only airchecks, e.g.) was on beyond zebra as far as I'm concerned. A pleasure, even if the writing is sometimes a little too cute for its own good.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I was looking for an old post on the previous incarnation of this site on The Wayback Machine, and ended up checking out some of the places that I used to carry on my blogroll and dropped. This time of year seems to lend itself to that sort of thing, for whatever reason. I'm not sure why I stopped reading Jeff Cooper's Cooped Up, but it's back now, and just in time to point me to this: "I know I said I wasn't going to blog about work, but here's what I want to say: 'Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." - Buddha. The costs of the past ten years:
* 4 years of college: tons of money, work and sacrifice;
* 3 years of scrimping to get by on a low-pay full-time job: money, work, sacrifice, sleeplessness;
* 3 years of law school: more money, work, sacrifice, stress and second-guessing;
* Finally realizing that the combination of my efforts, life experience and good luck have brought me to the exact place I was trying to reach all along: priceless."

Because our glamour profession is one that a lot of people find themselves in because they can't think of what else to do, or because they think it will be something other than what it really is, this sort of contentment is rare. Seeing someone who feels that way is a great thing, and is a shared bond. We typically have a clerk either in law school or sometimes just starting-- this year we have both-- and I hope that when they are through it they will be able to say that they are that satisfied with what they have accomplished.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I’ve had a Calvaneso sign on my lawn since they started giving them out, and I thought we were on the same page here, but apparently not. This morning A announced that she was going to put up a a Gaughan sign. “That’s exactly how Brown is going to win,” I said, “by splitting the vote for the good candidates.” “So you admit Kevin is good,” she said. “Ha! Skillful cross-examination.”

“I admit no such thing,” I said, “But will concede that there is a hierarchy. Our household supports the Metrosexual Mayoral Candidate. What has Gaughan ever done?”

“The Mayor is a figurehead. Kevin [she has known him a long time, and actually is on a first name basis with him] has a lot of good ideas.”

“He’s never run anything. I’m not so sure he’s ever had a job. Having good ideas is something he can do just as well in the private sector.”

“He can provide the leadership, and hire a manager to take care of the day to day stuff.”

“How would that be different from electing Calvaneso, and having Gaughan continue to freelance as a gadfly?”

“You have a sign for the candidate you like, I’m going to have a sign for the one I like.”

“Could you put yours in the back yard?” I asked.


(There is a nifty new app that allows posting directly from MS Word that I used to write this. It requires a title, something I do not care for, but that is why the Metrosexual Mayorial Candidate's name is in bold at the start of this post.)

To "Hamlet" at Shakespeare in Delaware Park last night. I hate to think that I may be losing the flexibility to attend this on a beach blanket-- folding chairs are for old people, but the ground was pretty unforgiving. (Which reminds me-- I saw "Ocean's 12" on the plane and was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I'd say I was completely sold by the time they got to this:

Danny Ocean: How old do you think I am?
Virgil Malloy: 48?
Danny Ocean: You think I'm 48 years old?
Virgil Malloy: 52?
Danny Ocean: Do I look 50 to you?
Basher Tarr: Yeah.
Danny Ocean: Really?
Basher Tarr: Well, I mean, you know, only from the neck up.

If I hadn't been sold by then, I would have been, you know? Clooney, by the way, is 44.)

I'd not been to Shakespeare earlier this summer-- I'm about "Romeo and Juliet"'d out if you want to know the truth, and nobody I know that saw it had much positive to say. "Hamlet" is tougher to do well, so I was a bit anxious-- three and a half hours of bad "Hamlet" would be pretty hard to take. Much to my relief, what we got was quite good. Paul Todaro, who I think of as more suited to comic roles, or parts like Tybalt, which call for antic energy, proved more than up to the challenge, and handled the transition from melancholy to mad to mature ably and gracefully. I was particularly impressed with the Yorric speech, which can be maudlin, and was here the moment when the Prince pulls it together in a way that made perfect sense. Also good, Kate LoConti as a sexy Ophelia-- a part typically more epherial, LoConti played it so that the Prince's attraction was understandable, while not missing the heartbreak. I also thought Peter Palmisano made the most out of Claudius, which is hard to do. The King is tough because he seems like a pretty reasonable guy. He is nice to Gertrude, and his crimes were all committed off stage. It feels to me that Shakespeare had to include the bedchamber scene as much to establish the King's culpability as to demonstrate Hamlet's ambivalence. Played differently, with that scene omitted, one could buy into the idea that Hamlet is just nuts-- tragically so, but nuts all the same. Finally, Tim Newell handled windy old Polonius nicely, walking the line between comically pompous and sincere, well-intentioned parent as well as any parent could hope to. Poor old duffer, who would do a better job with kids like those?

It runs through 8/21, and if I could, I'd go see it again. You'll want two bottles of wine, and a sweatshirt, but forget about the folding chair-- that's for old people.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Twenty years ago, English beer would have been a revelation : fresh, full-bodied, complex, as different from Schmidts or Labatts as chalk from cheese. Times have changed, though, and although I had a couple of nice bitters, and a reasonably good IPA, there was nothing that I had that was as good as a nice Bear Republic Racer, or Sierra Nevada IPA. I'm sure further study is in order, but as I stood drinking my Fuller's Pride I couldn't help but be pleased knowing that I could do better at my local.

I'm pretty sure that there aren't a lot of people who read this that'll know what I'm talking about, and even those few will think it is extremely geeky of me to be excited about it, but I just picked up a file that has a Mendon Ponds issue.

Friday, August 12, 2005

There was a sentencing on before our Rule 26 conference; I was there early, and watched as the courtroom filled with family and friends. This was an affluent looking crowd, or at least upper middle class, and I really couldn't get a fix on what the crime might be. The gallery ranged in age-- some older than I am, some younger. When I want people in court I tell them to dress the way they would if they were going to church. (Depending, sometimes I say, "You are coming to my church-- please dress the way you would expect me to if I were coming to yours.) Perhaps this message wasn't conveyed to these people, or perhaps foundation garments are not what one wears in the houses of worship attended by these people. And flipflops-- I think flipflops are fine, in their place, but what sort of person gets up in the morning and thinks, "I've got to go to a sentencing at Foley Square today. I think I'll wear this haltertop, and these flipflops,"? I mean, fine if you want to, and I didn't mind the view, but it did seem a bit odd.

Not that it would have made much difference. In the usual way of these things the first few minutes were a confusing goulash of statutory citations and references to the record, but gradually it became clear. This was a crooked pharmacist, who had been, inter alia, charging insurers and Medicaid, for refills that had not been filled. He was obliged to pay "restitution" (actually probably not-- there didn't seem to be any way to tell who should get the money, so it will go to the US Treasury's General Fund) of $750,000 bucks. This tells me that he was doing this a lot, and probably for a long time. He'd sold his business, and his fraud meant that the operation had been somewhat overvalued-- he settled the civil action by the buyers for several million, but he was still north of $10 mil on the transaction. In other words, not to put too fine a point on it, and excuse me, Mom, he was a greedy fuck. His lawyer did the best he could with what he had, and argued that he was not a greedy fuck, and had in fact been a pillar of the community, and a devoted family man. He is 65, with a history of heart trouble, and a bad family history, including a twin brother who'd keeled over five years ago. Apparently a number of people had written letters on his behalf, but his lawyer didn't mention any letters from ay sort of clergy, which, come to think of it, maybe accounts for the lack of bras among his the people who came to support him. Since the shitrain started, he's been volunteering for Meals on Wheels, but other than that the stuff cited by his lawyer was along the lines of how one time he'd noticed that someone's antidepressant medication didn't seem to be helping, and had alerted the guy's doc. Counsel said that this "went above and beyond" what most people would have done, but it is hard for me to see it that way. They wanted home confinement, and community service (which they kept calling "volunteering"-- it ain't volunteering in a judge says you gotta).

I mean, I don't know. You see something like this, and you think "Maybe he's a great guy." But I really didn't hear anything about what a great guy he was-- he sounded like a guy that set up a pretty elaborate scheme to steal, even though he had loads of money, and I didn't hear anything that suggested to me that he'd ever done anything for anybody, except maybe help his children out when they were having money troubles. Frankly, he came off as a greedy, crooked son of a bitch, and when the judge very politely told him he'd be in stir for the next 41 months, it seemed about right to me.

Still, it was interesting, and a good reminder to be good. I never see someone sentenced but I think, "That could happen to me," and although this particular offense is not something I'm every likely to get caught at, what with not being a pharmacist and all, one thing I've noted about the system is that once it gets you, you get ground pretty fine. Stay good means more than "Don't do illegal things"-- it means that when the chips are down, you are going to want more than a room full of daughters- in-law wearing flipflops -- you'll want some people to talk about the serious good that you've done. Six months of Meals on Wheels after the feds are on to you won't get it done.

They were still in the courtroom after we met with the judge in the robing room for our conference, some red-eyed, some angry. I was moving poorly-- I'd jammed my ankle earlier, and was hauling my suit bag as well as my briefcase, but none of them moved out of the way for me, and the defendant stood in the elevator, blocking the door and preventing me from getting in while he talked to someone. He seemed pretty shaken up-- I wonder if he really thought he wasn't going to get time? One of the guys that rode down with him was angry: "I can see the headlines, 'P_________ F____, Pharmacist Gets 41 Months"-- that's what she was thinking." Yeah, you bet. This federal court judge was thinking about the ink she was going to get on this.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Off to Merrie Olde for a deposition. I have been to London once before, too briefly to form a meaningful impression, and this trip is also parachuting in and parachuting out, the only way I ever travel, really. A highlight promises to be catching up with an old friend, who has invited me to meet him at his club. I really should be more grown up about it, but the prospect of an actual English Gentlemen's Club has me nearly giggling. We've been watching the Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie "Jeeves and Wooster" series this summer, an EGA discovery (with a tip of the hat to MMP as well). I doubt that my friend's club will be like The Drones, but you never know.

I have not seen any need to upgrade my present i-Pod to a Photo iPod, but the idea of downloading subway maps to the device has me re-thinking this. (Via kottke.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Because her pending semester in China will take her off the blood donor roster for a while, EGA is anxious to donate as often as she can. She hit upon the notion of donating platelets-- which you can do quite frequently. She invited me along, and although I prefer my socializing to involve fluid intake instead of fluid loss, I'm a companionable guy, so I went for it.

"We'll put a tube in each arm, for output in one, and to restore the red blood cells and plasma in the other," the nurse said. "Cool," I said, and did not add, "I'll feel like Keith Richards." After they finish the exhaustive questionnaire about sexual habits ("Not even once?") it sort of dawns on you that joking around about transfusions at the Red Cross is probably like joking about bombs at the airport-- Not As Funny As You Think.

You know what happens as soon as you are hooked up and you can't move your arms? You got it-- your nose starts to itch. The whole thing is really simple enough, and certainly painless, but it is tedious. They let us watch "The Incredibles", which was fine, but it takes about an hour and a half once you have finished the screening ("Not even once?" "Really, never.")

Walking out of court yesterday following an infant's compromise hearing I reflected on the stages of a lawsuit. There is a truism about technology that seems applicable to this sort of thing as well: they say that the most difficult part of bringing energy or water or wireless signals into a house is the distance from the curb to the house itself-- the last six feet problem. It sometimes seems like that's how it goes with a lot of cases-- you do the pleadings, you conduct the discovery, you negotiate. Then, when you have an agreement, you have to go through an elaborate rigmarole: preparing closing papers, getting signatures, filing with the clerk's office, getting checks, disbursing checks, on and on. The thing is, most of the stuff leading up to the last bits is kind of fun. The final work feels tedious because mentally the case is already over. It never seems to me that I'm even getting paid for filing stipulations of discontinuance (although I am), because by that time the case has moved from the very front of my mind to the place where I store stuff like my high school locker combination.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

I am usually pretty critical of Buffalo News rock critic Jeff Miers; he seems to think that if he liked it when he lived in a dorm, then it must be pretty good, and he has a mullet. Credit where credit is due, however, he does know his Dylan. Presumably because he hangs around Jeff Simon he can't resisist name-dropping, and if you wait long enough he'll be sure to mention that the intro Dylan has used on tour for the past few years comes from a column he wrote. ("The poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the '60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock, who donned makeup in the '70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse, who emerged to 'find Jesus,' who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears and released some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s." Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Columbia recording artist Bob Dylan.) If it's could enough for Dylan, it certainly is good enough for me, even if Miers has told the story almost as many times as Simon has told the one about being the only white guy at the Dizzy Gillespie show.

I mention it because Miers got it right about Dylan in last Friday's Gusto. " Dylan is today and always has been inscrutable. That never stopped anyone fascinated by his genius from attempting to unravel him. It's a waste of time, of course, albeit an interesting one. Dylan has long made it clear that he's only interested in the songs, and that if you like his music, that's all you should care about, too.

"This may sound cynical, but consider: Dylan has never claimed to be anything but a touring musician and songwriter, a guy leading a band through some of the greatest songs likely to be written in my lifetime and yours. He'd like his music to be heard by people; his constant touring and reinvention of his material suggests he'd rather be considered a living, breathing artist than a stuffed museum piece or a particularly incorrigible bit of taxidermy."


Friday, August 05, 2005

To Thursday At The Square last night, to see Willie Nile, featuring The Amazing All My Children Band (and assorted cousins and in-laws). I felt like I got burned on my two Willie Nile purchases back in the day, but he was in fine form, and the band ably backed him. It was clear that they were all having fun, and when that happens the music is pretty hard to resist. Props to Chris Knab in particular-- not merely a solid performance on the skins-- he played with flair. Hard to know what to make of Nile-- he had a shot, and showed warning track power, I guess, but credit where credit is due, he's made a career of it, and I respect that.

The headliner was Lou Gramm, another story altogether. It is tempting to say that Foreigner represents something close to the nadir of 80's Corporate Rock, but that wouldn't be quite true or entirely fair. It is probably more accurate to say that Foreigner was one of the last examples of the sub-genre known as "Hard Rock", a lumbering Triceratops characterized by a paucity of blues in the performers' diets. It is important to distinguish Hard Rock from the forms that displaced it in the ecosystem, notably Heavy Metal and Punk. Who were the great Hard Rock bands? Foghat? Deep Purple? Bad Company? Mountain? Steppenwolf? I'm cheating a little here-- the answer is probably The Who-- but you see my point. In any event, Gramm was flabby and flacid, singing songs that were just hook-y enough to be annoying. His band seemed tight, which is, after all, a prerequisite of the form, and if they'd been playing stuff that I like, I think I'd have like the guitar, but even though Foreigner produced a plethora of hits, there's not a single one that I can say that I ever liked. I left after three songs, but not before "Double Vision" got stuck in my head. Thanks, Lou.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Via The Morning News Things That Are Not In The US Constitution. Perhaps overly literalist-- the flaw with the sort of strict textual interpretation favored by Scalia and his ilk is that it fails to recognize that the Constitution emerged from a rich common law tradition-- and continues to operate in that environment. We do not have a code based legal system, which is, I think, the principle reason that our system has lasted in this form for as long as it has. The English will tell you that their legal system is older, and although you could argue that it has so fundamentally changed over the years that it really can't be said to be the same system, I say, what the hell, give them that much. Allowing that, then, the US legal/governmental system is the second oldest in the world-- and it didn't get there by being static. Credit Holmes for the development of American Common Law as a different sort of thing from English Common Law, credit Marshall for finding a way to make American Constitutional Law a dynamic force. It is embarrassingly stupid for Senator Christopher Dodd to come out with a remark like this, on Judge Roberts: "The open-ended question for us clearly is what are his views about some of the basic values, the equal protection clause, the privacy clause of the Constitution." (Via The North Coast). The Senate Judiciary Committee is the only committee in that august body with a specific membership requirement: you have to be a lawyer. Senator Dodd, a graduate of the University of Louisville School of Law presumably has had occassion to read the text-- and since Griswold v. Connecticut was already nearly ten years old when he was in law school, presumably he studied it. This is exactly the sort of thing that worries me: guys like Dodd, or Joe Biden, trying to question a lawyer like Roberts. Senators who may be all good intentions when it comes to safeguarding our constitution, who aren't even lawyers enough to fix a traffic ticket. Every year it is my privilage to serve as a judge for the University of Buffalo's Desmond Moot Court Competition, where students argue hypothetical cases based on pending Supreme Court matters. I am here to tell you that in the years I have been doing this I have never heard a lawyer or a student say something so perfectly jewel-like in its stupidity. Sometimes I think that it is only inertia that preserves our Republic. And then I wonder if it has been preserved at all. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Smoked today at oral argument on a motion, in a case with facts that are so sad that the judge said, "Give me anything and I'll deny it." There was nothing, truth to tell, something we knew going in, knew when we took the thing. The bright spot was that I got to say that the situation was "sadder than McKinley's funeral", something I've been try to work in for a while.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Addendum: We pre-ordered Laura Cantrell's new side to be shipped to EGA this summer (Laura Cantrell belongs to EGA), and so hadn't heard it until she came home a week or so ago. Since this is a list of songs, I will cite the lead track, "14th Street", but the fact is that "Humming By the Flowered Vine" is by far her most completely realized work, a meditation on place and displacement that is reminiscent of "Car Wheels On A Gravel Road" without really being at all like it. Cantrell is mostly singing about being a Southerner who has adopted New York, but still reflects on her past-- in contrast to Lucinda Williams, who remains rooted in the south, but wanders from place to place, reminiscing about events specific to each place that she returns to.

Laura Cantrell's first two (and a half) sides are delightful, but merely held out the promise that this release makes good on. She has always had a pretty voice, and she has always found good people to play with. This time she found a good engineer, and the sound is warmer than she has been able to get in the past.

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