Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A big Happy Birthday to my Main Man, Norman Mailer!

Monday, January 30, 2006

You know who make me tired? Senate Democrats, that's who. You just know that most of them recognize the Alito nomination as something that will yield only bad results for those of us who believe that governmental power over individuals should be limited, and that the power of the Executive branch should be balanced by the legislature. Even though they know this, they can't get their act together to mount any sort of meaningful opposition. Have a look at this list, from Tim Grieve's "War Room":

Democratic Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, who hasn't announced her vote on Alito but opposes a filibuster anyway: "It is imperative that we remain focused on creating the tools New Orleans, Louisiana and the Gulf Coast will need to rebuild ... We simply cannot afford to bring the Senate to a halt at a time when we need its action the most."

Democratic Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, who will vote against Alito but won't support a filibuster: "While I personally cannot support Judge Alito's confirmation on the Supreme Court, there is not a smoking gun in his past that would warrant 'extraordinary circumstances' and subsequently a filibuster against his nomination."

Democratic Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, who will vote against Alito but won't support a filibuster: "I see no reasonable prospect that a filibuster would work."

There are more. I've said it before: the difference between a Senate Democrat and a sheep is that a sheep is good for wool.

To the Maria Schneider Ochestra yesterday, at the Albright-Knox Art of Jazz series. There really is nothing quite like a Big Band, and this one didn't skimp: four trumpets, four trombones, piano, bass, drums and guitar, and an accordian for good measure. Schneider's band plays all originals, and although there is plainly a Gil Evans influence, the sound was entirely distinctive. Particularly notable, I thought, was the work of first trumpet Ingrid Jensen, especially on the flügelhorn solo she took on "Hang Gliding". It almost sounded as though it was being played through an effects pedal, but no, the depth of sound she achieved was all her-- very impressive.

Schneider conducts, the first time I've seen that in a jazz context-- interesting and not the distraction I would have thought.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

The BBC Stylebook.
be cautious, particularly with football. "England fans rampaged", "Scotland fans drank the place dry"; not British fans.


Please, never "soccer".
Split infinitive
do not do so unnecessarily, because it will offend some listeners. Follow Fowler, who says they should be split sooner than be ambiguous or artificial; or Raymond Chandler: "God damn it, I split it so it will stay split".
(Via Making Light.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The notion represented by this map is an entertaining one, but I think it'd be more interesting if it were a bit more contemporary. I don't care as much about pre-Columbian food as much as I care that South Carolina is where they've got that interesting mustard based barbeque, or where fish tacos start. It's the niche stuff that's really the most interesting-- I had a pastrami sandwich yesterday , re-affirming that you can't get a good pastrami sandwich here in Chicken Wings Nation. Actually, it'd be most useful as a series of Roadfood overlays. Hot dogs: grilled, boiled or deep fried? Here be White Hots. Pizza, too could benifit from this treatment. It is not entirely true that there is no decent pizza norht of Yankee Stadium-- the folks in the Nutmeg State have done interesting work, and there's the whole pineapple thing that I don't really understand. Styles of chilli-- how far around Cincinnati is the spaghetii ring? Of course it would be good to chart the trend in barbeque from dry rubbed pork west through to wet sauced beef. As they say in the social sciences, clearly Further Research is Needed. (Via Saute Wednesday.) Posted by Picasa

Australia Day. Funny how it just creeps up on you. "Do you always watch for Australia Day and then miss it? I always watch for Australia Day and then miss it."

See? It is too a distinctive culture.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

At a conference late last fall I fell in with a couple of guys from Mississippi. Nice fellows, they were fans of Trent Lott, but were convinced that Hillary was a lock for the Democratic nomination. One of them even seemed inclined to vote for her. This is what happens when you get outside the People's Republic of New York-- you hear other points of view. I can't quite get my mind around the inconsistency contained in the notion that Lott and Clinton are politicians that it is possible to like at the same time, but maybe that's because the Hillary Clinton that exists in my mind isn't the one that other people see. In spite of it all, I think of Senator Clinton as something of a liberal-- maybe even more liberal than ol' Bill. Of course, come to think of it, ol' Bill wasn't all that liberal; one of the things that made the Republicans so furious with him was the way he kept stealing their ideas. It's hard to look at anything Hillary has done as a senator, or before, that marks her as particularly liberal, either, come to think of it. I'm still furious that she voted to authorize the war on Iraq. Chuck Schumer did, too, but he can point to a long list of other things, like safeguarding the federal judiciary, that lead me to forgive him.

I do not think that Senator Clinton is a lock for the nomination-- the fact that she is thought to be is really more of a symptom of the Democrats' lack of ideas. Who else is there? You just know Lieberman wants to run-- he hasn't got it out of his system yet. Kerry, too, only this time he'll run the campaign he should have two years ago. John Kerry is doomed to fight the last war for the rest of his life. And right on schedule, here comes Al Gore, back from the wilderness. I could go for Gore, who actually does have a record to stand on, and ideas that I can get behind. The obvious template is 1968 Nixon. I wonder if Gore can pull it off. Scott Fitzgerald got it wrong, of course, American lives are all about the second act. We love reinvention, for the most part, but is Gore prepared to pretend, as Nixon did, that he has changed in some fundamental way? What was Gore's sin? Sarah Vowell says, "[Gore] was widely perceived as arrogant. If you know something, you're not smart. You're a smarty-pants. It's annoying. People get annoyed with your knowledge. It goes back to high school, to not doing your homework ... 'There's something I should know, I don't know why I should know it but someone knows it and I don't. So I'm going to have to make fun of him now.'" The Partly Cloudy Patriot suggested that self-deprecation would help, but I wonder if that will carry the day. Beyond that, even at a time of national crisis, with the country mired in an unpopular war, Nixon needed help-- he needed a weak opponent and George Wallace to split the vote.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On the way to the Boilermaker last year Weather Report's "Birdland" popped onto the playlist Tom had made for the occassion. This morning as I was driving into work I got the Cannonball Adderley Quintet's "Why Am I Treated So Bad?". It's funny to think about guys like Wayne Shorter or Adderly-- Miles Davis alumnus!-- playing such rinky-dink stuff, even if it is catchy. What could account for it? The answer, of course, is right there, on keyboards: Joe Zawinul. I don't know why these things are such guilty pleasures; if they were rock instrumentals I'd feel less ambivilent, I think. It's just odd to hear the guy who recorded "Something Else", or the guy who recorded "Speak No Evil" working in this sort of pop vein.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

You really need to be following Laowai Days. "Last night twelve of us went out to a Hot Pot restaurant, which is when there's a hot plate in the middle of the table with a pot of boiling broth in it and you stick taro and fish heads and mutton and cow stomach in it until it's ready to throw away."

Friday, January 20, 2006

Thanks for all of it, Wilson Pickett. "In the Midnight Hour" is one of those songs that gives the same thrill every time you hear it-- "Mustang Sally", too-- a bar band staple that always sounds great.

Notes from a rock'n'roll lifestyle, via the NYTimes obit: "But he also suffered from a string of run-ins with the law. In 1991, he was arrested and charged with shouting death threats while driving his car over the mayor's front lawn in Englewood, N.J., where he lived at the time."

Outside Counsel readers who are interested in EGA's adventures in the Middle Kingdom should check out Laowai Days.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

When I was a New Yorker I read at least three and often five newspapers a day. The Times, of course, Newsday (underrated), the WS Journal and a tab or two, mostly for the sports. I've cut way back, even though I still think of myself as a newspaper kinda guy, but I'm finding that my internet time resembles my newspaper time, even though I seldom read the Times or anything else like that online. ESPN, Slate, Salon-- and a roster of funnies. My brother, GJA has alerted me to Alien Loves Predator and I've been following Diesel Sweeties for a while. I think the one I like best is Queen of Wands which is actually in reruns, so this is my second time through. Newspapers wonder why their circulation is declining-- no Gil Thorpe and Mallard Filmore or Prickly City instead of good funnies might be part of the problem.  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I love it when Roadfood features Buffalo institutions. I wish this photo wasn't a fair and accurate depiction of our climate, but it is. I would argue that the quality of the wings one can get decreases the farther one gets from The Anchor-- I wouldn't order them at all as close as Batavia. Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 16, 2006

Squeeze My Lemon. Blues and blues downloads.

EGA should be in China shortly, if she isn't there yet. It was a funny sort of weekend: Friday we were at the opening of the new Righteous Babe space, which was full of people A and I know who were anxious to express their enthusiasm to her about her adventure. I think this may have ramped up her anxiety somewhat, although it's possible I misread her. Saturday was spent running mundane errands and performing vexing computer tasks-- it took forever for me to get a wireless card installed and running on her laptop, for example. Saturday night we finally got to our holiday viewing of "The Royal Tenenbaums ". Sunday we took her to the airport, and if her departure wasn't moist it was at least dewy. A signal, I think, that she was ready to go.

I can understand the state of anxiety she has been operating under; although I travel a fair bit, I can't say I enjoy the anticipation of it. The transition time, the time spent actually getting from one place to another, is something I try to numb myself to. She had the advantage of traveling on a Sunday-- one of the ways I like to ignore the fact that I'm going from one place to another is by reading as many Sunday papers as I can.

When she comes back, she will be a seasoned traveler, an old Asia hand. It'll be easier for next time, and she'll always be a good traveler-- it comes with practice, I think. The things that we do that are the most extraordinary are often the things that seem the least remarkable, or that we have to keep reminding ourselves are unusual. Most people spend their lives within a twenty mile radius from where they went to high school, but that won't be what EGA does. She may or may not find that she is comfortable in the PRC-- you never know about a place until you try it, and sometimes you are surprised. Even so, she will be prepared to try places out-- she really already is. I can't wait to start reading her impressions.

Friday, January 13, 2006

This Salon article about the difficulties a group of sexual harrasment plaintiff's are experiencing suing a Native American casino plays the story for its tawdry aspects, which is fine, because it makes it a good read. The point it is making, however, is an important point-- when you cede property to a sovereign nation, what happens there really does stay there. As it happens we represent a personal injury plaintiff in a claim against the Niagara Falls casino, and while I suppose their system would qualify as due process, it probably could be held up as an example of what the barest minimum for due process looks like. The system has short deadlines to make a claim, the rules are buried deep in the Seneca Nation's website, with no external links on the homepage; they are not to be found on Westlaw or in any library that I could locate. Claims are limited to provable economic damage only-- no pain and suffering, so too bad for you, retired people who make up the majority of the trade if you fall and get hurt. The opportunity to testify is at the sole discretion of the Seneca tribunal. I could go on.

I suppose its true that the Native Americans got screwed over, back in the day. Let me tell you, though, inch by inch they are going to get their own back. It'll take time, but we are just stupid enough to turn our cities over to them, and then all bets will be off.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I like the Erie County Bar Association-- I've belonged to a lot of local bar groups over the years, and the ECBA gives pretty good value. One of the things that it does is put out a monthly Bulletin. The Bulletin has gossipy stuff about who is giving panel presentations, and notes on recent decisions, and a message from the association's president that is usually chatty and usually an interesting meditation on the state of our glamour profession as practiced here in the Eighth Judicial District. Last month we had an essay on the state of the relationship between doctors and lawyers(pdf)that also appeared in the Erie County Medical Society's journal. This month the president of the Medical Society has his say, and its lack of any sort of intellectual rigor is matched only by its self-centered shortsightedness.

Dr. Vienne's points can be summarized as follows: (a)Doctors don't make enough money; (b) It is inconvenient to be sued-- why can't you just take our word for it when we tell you we weren't negligent; (c) malpractice should mean "negligent conduct that causes damages, not bad outcomes; and (d)if you keep suing us, we will stop being doctors, and then where will you be? Along the way Doc Vienne trots out the McDonald's coffee case, getting it wrong, because that's traditional.

It is troubling to see scientists lose all pretense of objectivity like this, and it is all the more troubling when they make their invalid arguments secure in the belief that we should accept what they say on the basis of their status as doctors. (See Point (b) of Doctor Vienne's assertions.) One more time then: (a) nobody makes enough money. Everybody has overhead. Get over it; (b) You seem to misunderstand the process-- we are engaged in dispute resolution, and if you are really not at fault, the odds that you will be exonerated are overwhelmingly in your favor. Sorry for the inconvenience, but nobody ever asks to be sued, and everybody else manages to cope with it without turning it into a social crisis. To put it terms you might better relate to, the lawyer who includes you in a suit when your involvement with the patient was de minimus is just trying to protect herself from a malpractice claim. Think of it as being like an MRI when the clinical signs leave you 98% sure of your diagnosis; (c)that is what malpractice means; and (d) people become doctors for the same reason people join any other profession-- because they feel a calling to it. The studies I have seen are pretty ambiguous about whether the prospect of being sued is actually driving doctors out of practice. It seems just as likely that a 50 year old OBGYN might be thinking, "I've worked hard, I've made my pile, now I'm going to golf."

Seriously, being a doctor is hard work, and everybody knows it. But it is not the fault of the legal profession that your training is rigorous, your hours long, and that the complicated system for your being paid that we have in the US is a headache. The myth of the malpractice crisis that has been perpetuated over the course of the past 25 or so years obscures the fact that malpractice does occur, and that in our society risk is allotted to negligent wrongdoers, rather than over society as a whole. Personally, I'd be fine with a no-fault system for med mal-- if we got universal health care in exchange. Somehow I don't see that happening. Doctors aren't interested in capping out their income upside in exchange for greater security. It's a capitalist system-- big upside always means some risk, and I'd expect scientists to recognize that.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a trial to get ready for.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

This view, from Windows Live Local, gives an even better sense of what we are talking about. We are looking east. Delavan is the street at the far left of the photograph, and Delaware is running from Delavan, past the Parkway, and into Gates Circle. You can see the gas stations on either side of Delaware and Delavan and we are facing the present storefronts where Walgreens wants to be. This pretty clearly illustrates the parking problem we have been talking about-- other than the lot across the street from the hospital there doesn't seem to be room for any. This shot also illustrates how the gas station/convenience store on the southwest side of Delaware really fits badly-- it is in the back yard of the houses on the parkway. The buildings on the northeast corner of the circle are really what fits in this area-- fronted by greenspace they make an attractive presentation to travelers entering the circle, as do, of course, the existing buildings where Wlagreens wants to be. Viewed this way, it's hard to see where they'd put it. Posted by Picasa

I think North Coast's take on the proposed Walgreen's at Gates Circle is 95% correct. As I commented over there, I am troubled by the fact that the new store may drive the Rite Aid there out of business-- as it happens that is the drug store I use, and it wouldn't take much to make me switch-- the Right Aid is slow, inefficent, dingy-- all in all a less than ideal retail experience. The thing is, though, that if the Right Aid folds its tent up, that space will be an utter blight, another empty cement block building. That's no reason to tell Walgreens to go away, but it is a legitimate concern, and it is certainly another good reason to make sure that Walgreens puts a store in that is built out to the sidewalk. We drove by Gates on my way back from school last night. A is quite agitated about this, and not without reason-- the fact is that the Gates Circle area has been degraded by the Rite Aid and the Atlantic gas station, which are smack dab next to some attractive, expensive looking houses. The Circle itself is attractive-- one of my favorite things in the city, actually. It would be crazy to ugly it up. Unfortunately, as this Google Earth image shows, there really isn't a lot of room for parking in the rear-- the lots that are visible are for the hospital, and I don't see that being contributed to the cause-- can you imagine the uproar if doctors didn't have a convenient place to park? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rachael Larimore and Dahlia Lithwick ask, "What if you wanted to ask a question that actually elicits information?
"That's something the senators on the judiciary committee might want to ask themselves going into this week's confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito. Because cross-examination is a skill at which they demonstrated almost zero ability during John Roberts' confirmation hearings last fall."

Last fall? How about, since the Watergate hearings? I realize that asking good questions is a specific skill set-- it is a skill I try to teach. But just because something isn't instinctive or intuitive doesn't mean that it isn't worth doing-- this is a big deal. We are dealing with a President who has said, in so many words, I will do whatever I feel I have to, and the legalities are not important." Alito is going to be one of the judges that will determine whether presidents can do that and get away with it. I'd like to think that the lapdogs and sheep that are the Democratic caucus of the United Sates Senate are up to the job of conducting the level of due dilligence that the task cries out for.

I disagree that, "So long as the nominee can decline to respond, it's not all that useful to be a brilliant questioner." The right questions can focus the public's attention on the issues, and on the ability of the nominee to decide the issues in a manner consistant with the great traditions and precedents that make up American Constitutional Law. The problem is preciesely that, "the senators tend to view their questioning of the nominee as incidental; their real objectives are delivering endless speeches, listing their every senatorial accomplishment, and striving to get themselves quoted on the evening news."

The east side of Delaware Avenue between Gates Circle and West Delavan Avenue is presently where a restaurant that I like (but A doesn't), a fancy florist and a travel agency, and a Curves gym are situated. It's a pretty little bunch of low brick buildings which are somewhat disadvantaged as retail space by reason of a paucity of parking and a complicated pedestrian layout due to the circle, but they all seem to be doing fairly well. Just north, on the same block, is a high-end martini bar, and on the corner, a newly refurbished gas station. The gas station is directly across from another gas station with a convenience store, and from Forest Lawn, Buffalo's landmark cemetery. The fourth corner is occupied by a Rite Aid.

It now emerges that Walgreens wants to move into this space. That would be a shame, in my view. It is easy to understand why they would be interested-- it's right up the block from a hospital, and the Rite Aid is always busy. This is a stretch of Delaware that is blighted by the parking lots on three corners, though, and the one piece of the block that is attractive now is what will be replaced by a big ol' concrete block building. It does not seem to me that this is an addition that would improve the quality of life in the area, although, in it's defense, Walgreens seems to have done a respectable job at integrating itself into the neighborhood at Delaware and North. If it could be done in an attractive way, without another busy, ugly parking lot, my gut opposition to the project could be swayed.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Dr. James A. Werick was an 81 year old retired cardiologist. They are saying that the fire that killed him was apparently started by a cigarette. The house is gone now. They knocked it down over the weekend, and were carting away the debris this morning. It is now possible to get a better look at the damage to the two adjoining houses: the orange house on the left side of this photograph isn't too bad, but the house on the right is in pretty rough shape. There were icicles hanging from the shingles on the side that faced the fire, so you know that the whole left side has got to be some mess. Still, the roof appeared intact, and from what I could tell, standing on the sidewalk, it appeared salvageable. Posted by Picasa

There has been a great deal about the Volvo experience that I have found to be very satisfactory-- it's a dependable car with a good ride, which is the main thing. Beyond that, though, the dealer we deal with is just terrific-- and when's the last time you heard anyone say that? They are friendly, for openers, but beyond that, I'm sitting here waiting for my 30k scheduled maintenance to get done, and the waiting room has wireless access! I'm checking my email, and updating this site, and IMing the office. Jim Culligan Volvo, you are the best.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I got the 30th anniversary edition of "Born to Run" for Christmas and slapped the cd in to listen to as I set about cooking that morning. It had been some time since I'd played the album as an organic whole, and I was struck by how really good it was-- even the less iconic songs-- "Meeting Across The River", say, or "Night",-- popped out as strong compositions. It's a great package, and if Springsteen ever meant anything to you and you don't have it yet, you should get it immediately. Instead of following the usual box set pattern and bulking out the collection with a bunch of outtakes, alternate takes and profit taking takes it includes two dvds-- a "Making of" documentary with a four song 1973 concert thrown in, and a full-length "Born to Run" period concert. I finally got to these yesterday and can report that both are excellent. The documentary has a lot of the sort of thing that I look for in such ventures-- explanations about where a particular riff came from, and how it developed; discussions about the technical means used to get the sound they ended up with; and interviews with the various participants about where they were in their lives at the time, and how this is reflected in the ultimate product. Towards the end there is some talk about the album's packaging-- the photograph of Springsteen leaning on Clarence Clemons. Earlier in the documentary Springsteen talks about how the album is a set of stories that sounds like it could all have taken place on a single summer night, and that gets at part of its quality, but when they talk about the album cover, Springsteen gets down to cases and says that you can tell just by looking at it that the music will be about friends and friendship. Watching the 1975 concert dvd I was struck-- as I have been in the past, by the notion that this is Springsteen's great subject. Even when his material doesn't speak to the subject directly, the performance of it invariably refers to "that time in our lives when our friends were our world, and we were all hopeless romantics." This is, I would say, the point of seeing Springsteen and the E Street Band in concert. They are all friends, it seems, and our experiences of friendship are channeled through the experience of the show. It may be true, as Scott Fitzgerald remarked, that "It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know they won't save us any more than love did," but watching the 1975 concert I'm not so sure that it is always true. Perhaps Fitzgerald's problem is that he is wrong to expect salvation: Springsteen, after all, asserts, "I'm no hero, that's understood/All the redemtion I can offer is beneith this dirty hood," but I think he might be being modest. In any event, what we are seeing in the 1975 Hammersmith Odeon London show is an E Street Band that, as Springsteen says in the liner notes, had "a good deal of the carnival still left in it... armed with a set list I still dare any young band to match...." Thinking it over, about as close as I could come to a band that had this sort of material and the comparable chops was Bob Dylan fronting The Band-- maybe there are other candidates, but I can't come up with them.

I don't think perfection is a rock'n'roll quality, even if it might be a legitimate rock'n'roll aspiration, and you couldn't say that Springsteen and E Street (or Dylan and The Band, or the Stones, or anyone else) has managed a perfect 10 anywhere, even if they have given us glimpses of what that might be like. Over the years I have sometimes thought that Springsteen had come to take himself too seriously, but this may have been too harsh an assessment-- on this evidence I would say instead that he is serious about what he is doing-- he is a professional, with a specific vision. One of the reasons that "The Rising" tour didn't do it for me (and, I suspect the prnciple reason that the last Springsteen show in town made Bruce Eaton wish he was seeing Gordon Lightfoot instead)is that the post September 11, 2001 trauma that Springsteen was endevoring to address is precisely the sort of thing that friendship cannot hope to address. When Springseen takes on subjects that dwarf the ability of our friends to provid comfort he loses me. The attempt is certainly well intentioned, but the material mixes poorly with "Quarter to Three" or "Rosalita". The central anecdote of "The Rising" was that some weeks after the towers had fallen someone shouted to Springsteen, as he was walking in a parking lot or something, "We need you now!" Good for him for trying-- we go to our friends' parents' funerals, after all-- but, in fact, the poor sap that shouted from his car was wrong about what was needed, and the experience of Springsteen's current work has the unfortunate effect of casting his strongest matirial into the light of nostalgia-- which is the wrong place for it. Listening to the cd, and watching the two dvds put it into focus for me: Springsteen's music is properly about celebration, and this set captures that wonderfully well.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Living near a hospital we hear a lot of sirens, and sometime the emergency vehicle come down our rather narrow block. Even so, there seemed to be an unusual amount of activity on the block last night. A was already out for the count when I looked out the window and saw that there were several fire engines on the street. I pulled on a pair of pants and a jacket and went out to investigate. There were fire trucks from the house next to ours all the way down the block to Elmwood-- I'd estimate about 15 of them. All kinds-- rescue vehicles and pumpers, and big hook and ladders. I kept walking-- it was further down the block than I'd thought, and the size of the response told me that it couldn't be good. When I got to 169 I could see that this was one of the biggest fires I'd ever seen: even though the flames were mostly out, there was still a lot of smoke-- and there was firefighter activity in the houses on either side as well. "Did everyone get out?" I asked an EMS guy who was standing watching, but he didn't know. We now know that an older man was taken from the scene and died at the hospital-- I'm not sure who it was, but of course, on our small block, he would be someone I'd recognize. There seemed little point in lingering at the scene-- it was cold, and obviously there was nothing I could contribute, so I left. This morning I drove by-- 169 is a ruin, and will be torn down today. The house on the east side of it also looked to be in pretty rough shape.

This news report is all I have been able to find about the fire so far: I think it is interesting that, "Fire officials say the setup of the street made it difficult for crews to do their job." Lancaster is a narrow block, to be sure, and both sides of the street are typically filled with parked cars, but there is no snow on the ground, and our block is hardly atypical for the neighborhood or for Buffalo. I enjoy our block, which is more like a little village full of busybodies than a real city, and I know that this event will have a profound effect on us-- I just don't really have a very good feel for what that effect will be. The house was, like most of the houses on the block, an attractive Victorian that was probably well over a hundred years old, and tonight when I go home it will no longer be there. That part of Lancaster will look like a smile that is missing a tooth, and we will all look at it and know that it was the scene of a catastrophe. Will something new be built there? I imagine so, but whatever is put there will look oddly out of place, and those of us who will remember the fire will look at the new structure and remember that someone died there.

When I think about it that way, it is even more difficult to imagine what it must feel like to be from New Orleans-- an order of magnitude different, perhaps, or perhaps at some point the scale passes our ability to comprehend, and we turn instead to thinking about one neighborhood, one block, on house, one death.

2006 will be the year we had the fire on Lancaster Avenue. Funny, now that I think of it, but this midnight event will probably be the event that defines the year for our corner of the world. Posted by Picasa

“He went like that,” Spade said, “like a fist when you open your hand.” Hammett's Parable of the Falling Beams. (Thanks to Making Light.)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

One of the things I love about our glamour profession is that the learning curve never has to plateau-- there is always something you didn't know, which keeps it fresh and new and exiting almost every day. For example, until just now I was unaware of the Chewbacca Defense. I think I'll have to practice a bit before I'm comfortable using it.... (Via Halley's Comment.)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

EGA and I weren't looking for luxury, just a cheap place to crash after They Might Be Giants. The JFK Inn fit the bill-- if you were looking for no luxury, it'd be the perfect place to start your hunt. A sign behind the plexiglassed front desk said, "Important: Strobe Lights Can Be Obtained At The Front Desk." We puzzled over this for the rest of the evening-- why would hotel guests request strobe lights? In room disco parties? Something about the seedy appearance of the room suggested that perhaps the premises might be used for filming 70's period pornos-- maybe the strobes had some cinematic application. Overcome with curiosity, when we returned to the hotel after the show, I asked for a strobe. The desk clerk produced one, then asked, "Do you know what it's for?" "Actually, no," I confessed. "That's why I asked." Come to find out they are for deaf people, for the phone and the alarm system. We passed on the strobe after that.

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