Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

We just picked up a nice new Labor Law 240 claim venued in Kings County, so with any luck we will be able to check out some of these Brooklyn eateries.

Monday, April 24, 2006

We had a little Warren Beatty festival this weekend: CLA said she put ""Bonnie & Clyde"" on the queue, and I had called for "McCabe & Mrs. Miller". For some reason I've never really gotten Beatty, perhaps because his body of work is comparatively small, and spread out over a long enough period of time that it is hard to remember what he did in each role to make it distinctive. "Bonnie & Clyde" is full of those sorts of moments: there is a scene where he speaks to a waitress which captures exactly the secret of his charm: he turns his attention on her so intensely that for just that moment it looks like they are the only two people in the room.

In McCabe & Mrs. Miller he does something else well-- he plays a character that moves from opaque to slightly dim (but cadgy)to poetic to stubbornly heroic or heroicly stubborn-- all with a subtle, light touch. Like a lot of Altman the movie is atmospherics-- but it takes a lot of actorly ability to create a distinct character though the mumbling and the murky soundtrack, and Beatty was completely up to it.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dorothea Braemer pointed me to this Village Voice article about the precarious situation the Association for Independent Video and Filmmakers in New York finds itself in. I don't write about Squeaky Wheel here very often, but I should-- it is an organization that is dear to me, and I've been involved with it for a long time. The fact of the matter is that nonprofit media centers like AIVF and Squeaky are important resources that seldom receive the recogonition and support that they deserve. Squeaky is in better shape now than it has been at any other time in the years that I've been associated with it, but it has to scrape and scrap for every cent. We are fortunate to have Dorothea's leadership and commitment-- she really is a remarkable person-- and we have a board that works harder than James Brown. The whole works nearly sank a few years ago, but it didn't, and we are doing important work today because people kept believing, and kept working to keep it going. One of the great things that Dorothea has done has been to spruce up Squeaky's image somewhat: it's fine to have an aura of scruffy lovability as an adolescent, but if you want to be taken seriously it helps to have a more professional appearence. It also helps to have a vision, and Dorothea brings that as well.

I don't think that it is true, as the former director of Film/Video Arts says in the Voice piece, that, "People didn't need to come to us to learn Final Cut Pro. They could teach it to themselves from a book." That sells what not-for-profit media arts organiztions do far too short. Media is about access as much as it is about technological savvy-- actually, media is about a complex package that also includes awareness. Indeed, awareness may be one of the most important components of the mission media centers like Squeaky Wheel exist to accomplish. It is sad, and ironic, that at a time like this, when we are immersed in media in ways that show up "The Matrix" for the comic book metaphor it really is-- that media arts organizations are struggling more than ever. And it isn't lost on me that the vitality of Squeaky Wheel is one more way that the arts make the quality of life in Western New York what it is. I've said it before, but the plain fact of the matter is that the arts are just about the only thing in Buffalo that actually works-- but it takes a lot of work to keep it going.

I think I knew that Dorothy Parker left her estate to Martin Luther King Jr., but I am sure I didn't know that her executor was Lillian Hellman. Funny how Hellman said so many fine things ("I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashion," is just for starters) and was, at the same time such a competely reprehensible person. I always thought the libel suit she brought against Mary McCarthy was evil and wrong, but I have tried to think of her as being like the person who wrote the wonderful introduction to Dashell Hammett's "Collected Stories"-- the person that Hammett said Nora Charles was based on. It is difficult to reconcile that picture with her actual behavior. It seems like "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'," was more than an apercu. This morning's piece on NPR really shook me-- Hellman was worse than careless, worse than mendacious. She was a active force for ill who still somehow managed to say the right things. An interesting sort poison, I guess, wholesome if left on the shelf, toxic as an aquaintence or a friend. I don't know now whether I want to re-read "The Group" or "The Children's Hour" first.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Stephen Schlesinger makes an excellent point: Bush was fading in popularity before September 11 because his policies were unpopular. His current low approval ratings really reflect a return to what would have been his baseline had Al Qaeda terrorists not attacked the country, with additional erosion attributable to the trainwreck that is the war in Iraq.

In other words, the Bush agenda is not popular. I wonder if there are any Democrats that recognize this? Kerry wanted desperately to distinguish his plan for the country from the direction that Bush was going, but he couldn't do it. Hamstrung by the fact that he'd voted in favor of a lot of it, Kerry was terrified that he'd look like he was vacillating. The junior senator from New York might have a similar problem down the road, although she may be more adept at dancing around it-- ol' Bill always was.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I'm not sure how I feel about the Special Citation the Pulitzer people have awarded Thelonious Monk. Of course he deserves it-- so did Duke Ellington. It just seems odd that they are just getting around to it now. In a funny way it feels like the Pulitzer Committee is using Monk to legitimize itself. Nice for his family I guess. Poor son of a bitch couldn't get a cabaret card when he needed it, but he's in solid with the Establishment now. If the Pulitzer folks are interested in laying a prize on a cat who is still alive and still important, I can think of several deserving candidates in the jazz realm: Bill Frizell would be a good pick, and so would Dave Brubeck-- but the man I'd nominate would be Randy Weston.

The Library of Congress has announced its annual selection of 50 sound recordings for the National Recording Registry. Sort of like the Soundkeeper's Castle in "The Phantom Tollbooth"I guess, except with Dave Brubeck and the Firesign Theater. The entire list to date is here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

It is pleasingly comical to watch as what passes for political leadership in Western New York clambers aboard the anti-casino bandwagon. One might ask where they've all been: I've gone through three "No Casino" lawn signs in the time it's taken them to figure it out, but that seems a harsh thing to say to someone who has seen the light. The whole thing is very revealing. I'd have been happier about Byron Brown if he'd have said that he thought a casino was bad last November, but I think what we are going to find out about Mayor Brown is that he is unlikely to take a strong position on anything much. Joel Giambra, who probably ate paste through the eighth grade, (and may still sneak a taste from time to time) has awakened to the reality of the situation. The Common Council have circled their unicycles and apparently also recognized that a great big casino will take dollars away from the people who contribute to their campaigns.

There are so many reasons that a casino is a bad idea that you wonder that these people couldn't have stumbled across one before now. The social ills associated with gambling is a good argument against, even if it is the one favored by parsons and old ladies. The fact that gambling attracts other vice is a good one too. I'm fond of the argument that an Indian casino takes money away from businesses that pay taxes, but the best reason to oppose a Seneca casino in downtown Buffalo, to my way of thinking is this: casinos are for hicks.

It's true, and don't give me James Bond playing baccarat as your retort: that just means you haven't actually read "Casino Royale". Las Vegas is where carneys go instead of heaven: the marks are plentiful, and ripe for the plucking, and from what I could see the plucking of marks is the entire culture of the place. Atlantic City is where they go instead of Purgatory. There's nobody you'd meet in Monaco that you'd introduce to your worst enemy from high school-- not even if he was Joel Giambra, The Paste Eater. And those are the "classy" gambling destinations. Let's face it, for all their many contributions to cosmopolitan urbanity, like lacrosse, our brothers the Native Americans aren't really the first people that come to mind when we think of suave sophistication. To be sure, the delightful irony of a race that sold Manhattan Island for $24 bucks getting some of its own back from the Budweiser-bloated Bermuda shorts set is not lost on me, but that's not the sort of city I want to live in. Let the chumps go somewhere else to be fleeced. Let them go to Biloxi, or Davenport. Duluth, or Thackerville. There's no shortage of places to go to gamble, a fact that speaks volumes about the credulity of the American public-- we really don't need to have it here.

For myself, I'd prefer it if the city where I live was known for something other than the per capita distribution of chumps to citizens. Is that really so much to ask? Even Mayor Brown and Paste Eater Joel have awoken to the realization that an Indian casino is a bad, bad plan. Who wants to be stupider than they are? (Besides Tony Masiello?)

There are a lot of things to like about living in Buffalo. We have clients come here from all over and they are always impressed by how attractive the architecture is, and by our rich cultural life. These are sophisticated people-- they've been to Biloxi. Why should we hold ourselves out as a bunch of rubes, rustics and paste-eaters?

With any luck my present "No Casino" sign will be my last.

An interesting toy: maps of the US that show which religion's adherents live where. (Via BoingBoing.) Why so many Quakers in Northern Alaska? It'd be interesting to have a look at how voting paterns fit into this distribution.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The only time I was in Alsace-Lorraine was an overnight stay in Nancy nearly 10 years ago. I didn't get much of a feel for it (I'm not even sure how I ended up there, to be honest) but I remember the meal. I found my way to a stylish looking brasserie and ordered Choucroute garnie. "Eat local, Bill," I said to myself. "Where else are you going to get something like this?" There were several options available, and they were all priced reasonably, so I chose the one that seemed to have the most variety-- in retrospect, a terrible plan. When it came to the table, I was staggered-- I'd apparently ordered the Babe Ruth Special. Choucroute is just sauerkraut, but this was about a pound of it, accompanied by four different kinds of sausage-- including one that was the closest thing to a hot dog I've ever seen in Europe. As I recall, there was a slice of ham, too, and maybe a rasher of bacon. It was a monumental pile of food. I don't know that I've ever been brought a plate piled that high in a restaurant before or since, and as I think about it seems to me that the thing was probably intended for sharing. I swear, it looked like a Green Bay Packers tailgate party. Probably the waiter reckoned that since I was an American I really wanted the family platter all for myself. I did the best I could, washing it down with copious amounts of (excellent) Alsatian beer and wishing there was a ballgame to watch, but in the end it was too much for me to do more than make a dent. It remains to this day the most hilarious thing I've ever had brought to me in a restaurant, but I wouldn't mind having it again in a more manageable portion. Frank Bruni reports that I may be able to the next time I'm in the vicinity of 2nd Avenue and 88th Street. Sounds like it might be worth it just for the beer.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I'm not a big fan of theater, but I make exceptions: I like Shakespeare, I like Beckett, and I've never seen my uncle, Chet Carlin in anything that wasn't terrific. Seeing him as Lucky in "Waiting for Godot" would have been a treat Posted by Picasa

Samuel Beckett's Birthday. The NYTimes says, "The average educated person typically owns the paperback of "Waiting for Godot" plus a select handful of the numerous other 50-to-60-page volumes, set in large type, that Grove Press issued over the years." I wonder if that is true. I have a fair size Beckett shelf, since I was a teenage existentialist and all-- but it seems to me that having a copy of "The Unnamable" is more a badge of the pretentious than of being an average educated person.

Interestingly, today is also the birthday of Eudora Welty (thanks to wood s lot for the tip). Welty is one of those writers that I feel like I should know better. If I'd taken a different path and ended up teaching English, I suspect that I'd have worked my way around to teaching a Welty class by now, but I lack the ambition to undertake a survey of her writing on my own just now. It is a funny contrast between Beckett and Welty-- Beckett is very much associated in my mind with a particular kind of Irishness, but his writing takes place in a sort of no place-- it is all surfaces, without internal location. Welty, on the other hand, although thought of as a regional sort of author, is nevertheless concerned on the interior of her characters.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Argentina On Two Steaks A Day. "The classic begginer's mistake in Argentina is to neglect the first steak of the day. You will be tempted to just peck at it or even skip it altogether, rationalizing that you need to save yourself for the much larger steak later that night. But this is a false economy, like refusing to drink water in the early parts of a marathon. That first steak has to get you through the afternoon and half the night, until the restaurants begin to open at ten; the first steak is what primes your system to digest large quantities of animal protein, and it's the first steak that buffers the sudden sugar rush of your afternoon ice cream cone. The midnight second steak might be more the glamorous one, standing as it does a good three inches off the plate, but all it has to do is get you up and out of the restaurant and into bed (for the love of God, don't forget to drink water)."

I've never been anywhere in South America, and had always sort of thought that I'd start with Brazil. Maybe not-- this sounds mighty good. (Via Kottke.)

Years ago Calvin Trillin wrote a piece about craving macaroni and cheese-- "Kraft dinner" specifically. He made some, and found it disapointing, only to discover, the following day that what he'd really been craving was reheated Kraft dinner. I thought of this today when I read Frank Bruni's piece on mac'n'cheese-- either of the versions references sound great, but I'm not so sure the reality would measure up. Last night I was thinking about writing another "Memorable Meal" piece for Spree-- presumably we'll be doing another food issue at some point-- and I remembered my lunch at Sonny Bryan's. Macaroni and Cheese is available as a vegitable at Sonny's, but I had the blackeyed peas and the greens. I have no regrets, but I think I need to get back there for further study.

UPDATE: Looks like I am misremembering: I couldn't have had greens and blackeyed peas. I do know that I had the beef brisket.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What I love about the Gospel of Judas is that B. Traven had it all figured out years ago.

Good discussion about sports releases. (Via Flutterby.) Matthew Lerner would direct us to General Obligations Law § 5-326 as a starting point, then on to Tedesco v. Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority (2 Dept. 1998) 250 A.D.2d 758, 673 N.Y.S.2d 181 (Verrazano Narrows Bridge, on which bicyclist sustained injury while participating in bicycle tour, is not "place of amusement or recreation," for purposes of statute invalidating contracts exempting places of amusement from liability, and thus, statute did not invalidate bicyclist's contractual release of bridge and tunnel authority from liability for injuries sustained).

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Excellent article, by E. Phelps Gay, on civilitiy-- "Professionalism In Depositions". (Via Metafilter.) Horribly, I've seen worse behavior than the examples cited.

On balance I'd have to say that EGA's experience at Buffalo Seminary was essentially positive, even though it sometimes felt to me as though I was fighting my high school battles all over again in a kind of proxy war a generation removed. The reality is, of course, that she fought her own battles, and was, in general, far cleverer than I had been in picking her fights. One fight that she largely avoided was with one of her English teachers, and although I have no love for the man, I received the news of Malcolm Watson's troubles with no sense of schadenfreude. He was gratuitously cruel to EGA, but she handled her situation with him with grace, and managed to get the best of what he had to offer. As I believe she would concede, for all his other flaws, he was a capable English teacher. In the end I think he even tried to make it up to her, but she'd recognized an aspect of his charactor that prevented her from doing more than preserving the truce they'd maintained. His downfall is as tragic as it was, perhaps, foreseeable, and I feel bad for him: a 35 year old African American male, a product of the Buffalo public schools, who turned out to not be Sidney Poitier after all. I expect the girl will get on with her life. I'd be surprised if Sandy Gilmor didn't weather this. I feel bad for the girls that came forward and suffered for it, but they have learned to stand up and speak out, and may turn out to be better people because of the experience. No doubt there are others who will be scared by this, but they will move on. The promising life that Malcolm Watson destroyed is his own, and that is so sad that I feel like I don't even have the vocabulary for it. It is tempting to try to tease out the psychology of it all, but I suspect that the man's motives are ultimately as unknowable as they seem obvious-- and as unimportant. From the outside it is always easy to see the stupid mistakes, particularly after the fact. It is the smoking ruin that matters, I think, and the rueful feeling that it could have been different.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Patrick Smith's "Ask the Pilot" column in Salon perfectly captures the bled of excitement and tedium that constitutes most travel. I like this week's piece, about airport amenities and the things that make airports less comfortable. I hate the ubiquitous televisions too, and the people who think escalators (and moving walkways) are rides. I also hate that American airports charge for the luggage carts-- I make a point of not carrying change when I travel, so I never have quarters and end up with my stuff draped all over me like a sherpa. Smith doesn't mention the $6 beers, but at least the bar at the JetBlue terminal has decent $6 beer on tap. Actually, the JetBlue terminal, which is, after all, where I spent most of my terminal time, is pretty good. The food is acceptable, the noise level is managable, the distance between gates is minimal, and there is free WiFi.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Some Dylanology: Here are (some of) Rolling Stone's reviews of his albums. Not surprisingly, they brought out the big guns on a lot of these-- Greil Marcus, Jon Landau-- Jann Wenner himself weighs in on "Slow Train Coming". What makes the whole thing interesting is how desperately wrong they are. Wenner says of "Slow Train: "It takes only one listening to realize that Slow Train Coming (Columbia Records) is the best album Bob Dylan has made since The Basement Tapes (recorded with the Band in 1967 but not released until 1975). The more I hear the new album — at least fifty times since early July—the more I feel that it's one of the finest records Dylan has ever made. In time, it is possible that it might even be considered his greatest." Landau on "Blood on the Tracks": "If in Dylan's world of extremes there's room for a middle ground, that's where I place Blood on the Tracks....To compare the new album to Blonde on Blonde at all is to imply that people will treasure it as deeply and for as long. They won't." Most of these reviews start from the notion that the side under scrutiny is Dylan's best since X-- a sort of backhanded complement since what it means is really, "I hate the stuff he's been doing to, but this is different.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden has said, "I deeply resent the way this administration makes me feel like a nutbar conspiracy theorist," but I think at this point that this observation falls short of the reality. I deeply resent the way this administration has turned my country into the embodiment of what people who hate America have said it is. Arrogant, war-mongering, greedy, selfish-- really, is there anything that a left-wing French newspaper could call the United States that wouldn't be true? I am particularly appalled at the way this bunch has corrupted the legal system-- perhaps the crowning accomplishment of American civilization, the single best thing we have contributed to the world. The trial of Zacharias Moussoui is an appalling travesty made no less so by the odd fact that both Mr. Moussoui and the Department of Justice are apparently going to get what they want. The government gets an elaborate show trial to demonstrate how tough it is, and Mousssoui, "a suicide bomber with a four year fuse" gets an elaborate show trial to demonstrate how counterfeit and corrupt American society is. Richard Cohen gets it right: "If I had my way, I would deny Moussaoui his opportunity. I would do so not just because it is pretty clear the man is crazy and, on account of that, he played a marginal role at best in the 9/11 plot, but because I would not complete the plot for him. I would not grant him what he wanted from the day he stepped foot in America -- his own death. If, in his case, the punishment is to fit the crime, then he would suffer most by spending the rest of his life behind bars. When he dies of old age, he will have been forgotten. In no place will people gather to mark his death. That will not happen if he is executed."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

In his otherwise fine obit of Jackie McLean, Stanley Crouch says something that rings completely false to me:

"With few exceptions, most of the bebop generations had drug problems because so many of the men they admired, like Charlie Parker, were addicts."

First of all, I think Crouch is telescoping his timeframe here. McLean is post-Parker, to be sure, and to my way of thinking that really makes him post-bebop as well. But more importantly, to attribute the addiction of men like McLean (or Art Pepper or any of the others about whom this has been said) to hero worship impresses me as being mindlessly reductive. It is interesting and sad to think about how heroin ravaged jazz but I sincerely doubt that anybody who tried it continued using it because they thought it made them better players. It seems much more likely-- and is much more consistent with the histories and biographies that I have read-- that these guys started on drugs mostly because they were bored, and smack was available. Bored and sleep disrupted, maybe. Sometimes bored and sleep disrupted and maybe having other health issues that they were self-medicating. Certainly the hip cache that Parker and others may have given heroin cannot be completely gainsaid, but almost no jazz memoir is complete without an anecdote about seeing a musical hero strung out. These guys weren't taking drugs because it was glamorous.

It was and is a hard life being a professional musician. Your hours are rough, the only way you can make any money is to be on the road all the time, and if you are good enough to fill a room, you didn't get that way without a lot of long hours practicing. By the time you are good enough the axe may be the only thing these cats know-- they haven't had the time to develop other outside interests, and even if they had any, when would they indulge them? You're on a bus in the day time, and you are working at night. Even the most avid reader would get worn down by this routine-- and let's face it, most of these cats weren't long on book learning. McLean at least grew up in Harlem, but quite a few of these men were from pretty rustic backgrounds. And oh, yeah-- a lot of them were black, which further limited the places they could go and the things that they could do. With nothing else to do, narcotics probably seemed like a fair way to pass the long hours when they weren't on the bandstand. Young, stupid (or uneducated, I suppose) and exposed to temptation. It all ends up a recipe for the plague of addiction that is one of the major sub-themes of this music.

I'm surprised that Crouch, who is pretty astute about this sort of thing, falls for the story that these artists fell into drug abuse out of a desire to emulate the musicians they admired. That explanation winks at the reality-- that these were men who were taken advantage of by the sons of bitches who sold them the drugs, or gave them the drugs. When you read about poor Bud Powell, or Monk, or Parker-- and you realize that they were abused victims of both the dealers and the cops. Caught in the middle like that, often unable to get a job because of stupid cabaret laws, it is remarkable that these musicians were able to accomplish as much as they did. It is certainly no surprise that so few of them made it through.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

British barristers bitch about their wigs. I know a couple of barristers, and I have to admit that the wigs look a little like dead cats, but I still think it would be a mistake for them to abandon the look. I would gladly don a wig if it meant that we got to wear robes-- court dress is an equalizer, and for that reason alone is a good idea. As it stands today the navy or charcoal suit, white shirt and tie amount to a sort of lawyer garb-- almost nobody else wears it on a daily basis, but that's not really the same. You know, of course, why judicial robes are black? It's because Queen Anne died. Used to be that judges wore red robes, except after the death of the monarch, when they wore black as a symbol of mourning. When Queen Anne went, black-- which is slimming, and goes with everything, stayed. In the US black was pretty much always the fashion, but I'd be fine with red, or with the robe and hood of my law school, which are black and purple. I've only had occasion to wear the outfit once since I graduated myself, although I am tempted every year at commencement. I've even threatened to rent the get-up for EGA's graduation next year-- it's that or a straw boater, I think.

Monday, April 03, 2006

EGA writes: "I miss American summers. The weather is getting warmer and I want to sit out in the backyard with the paper and ride my bike. We have an essay for tomorrow on "How Study Abroad has Influenced My Life" and I was in kind of a bad mood and I think I
was a little too honest but I'm too lazy to do it over. "Chinese has never been my
favorite class but explorers have not yet discovered a Logic Country so there was
nothing else to be done." "In addition to studying Chinese culture, studying abroad
has also given me an opportunity to observe another novel culture: that of the
American male." And so on. Last week my essay was deemed the best in the class and
put up on the board, which was pleasing."

For some time now our yard has been spared the title of "Worst Yard on the Block" strictly by virtue of the fact that the two houses two houses down on either side were serious contenders. The house next to the house on the left is essentially abandoned; the house two houses down on the right is occupied by a couple that, apparently, just don't give a damn. Since we live on a block with several legitimate Garden Walk contenders the concentration of blight on our stretch is pretty noticeable. For a long time it was attributable to A's notion that our yard should be "organic"-- a fine thing for hippie vegetable gardens, I suppose, but an absurdity for a lawn. Last summer I finally got fed up and hit the yard with Weed'n'Feed. That seemed to help somewhat, but last weekend CLA raked up the winter debris, and we found that winter debris-- and a patch of yellow zoysia grass-- were all that we had. It is official now-- we have the Worst Yard on the Block. I put down seed and fertilizer Saturday, but right now it is raw dirt-- and the yellow zoysia grass -- and it looks mighty bad. I'm surprised the neighbors haven't gotten a petition up. "At least it looks like a work in progress," CLA said. Maybe. Really what it looks like is a mess, and we don't even have the excuse of being a haunted house-- or not caring.

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