Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Sunday, May 30, 2010

It wasn't fast and it wasn't pretty but it was 13.1 and that's what I wanted. With that in the bank I'm tempted to gear up a bit. If I did eight at the Ridge next week where would that put me, I wonder? I was swinging along fine for eight today. Well, for seven at least.

Addendum: It also wasn't my worst 13.1. It was hot and sunny, and I was under-trained, but I was better than last year. After a race like that it is easy to see where I could have improved, and how. My PR for this distance is 2:07, which is a five-year old time. (Different course, too. It seems to me that it was flatter when we ran through Kenmore.) It comes down to mileage, I think. In 2005 I was running a lot more, and I'd like to get back there.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Did you know that the Yardbirds are touring this summer? Actually it's the bass player and the drummer from the Yardbirds, Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja. Keith Relf is dead of course, and the various lead guitarists for which the band is known are all otherwise engaged. You could have put a gun to my head and I would have been unable to come up with McCarty and Dreja, but even so I can't help but think that I might go to see them if they came to town. I wouldn't pay $25 bucks for a ticket, but if they were at Canalfest maybe....

I guess I'm still getting over my disappointment about Mick Taylor.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New York State Supreme Court Judges make $136,700 a year, and haven't had a raise in ten years. There is a case to be made that this state of affairs has led to a decline in the caliber of judicial candidates, although you don't hear the same thing about federal district court judges often, and they make $174,000. Is the extra $37k that meaningful? Federal judges do bitch about their paychecks, but they don't bring lawsuits and they don't threaten to join unions.

I suppose it is true that many people who are judges could make more money elsewhere, but nobody put a gun to anyone's head. On the contrary, in New York the tradition is that if you want to be a judge you get your friends to give you money, with the more or less implicit understanding that it is good to be a judge's friend. We've got five open Supreme Court spots here in the Eighth Judicial District this year. That's a lot of fund raisers. If the job is so crumby, how come my mailbox is full of invitations to parties for people who want me to be their friend?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Here's a useful resource that I literally stumbled upon by accidentally clicking on a link: The Dozens, a series of lists of great (mostly) jazz recordings, some by notable jazz musicians (Maria Schneider on Gil Evans, e.g.), that offer a way into a lot of music I've been wanting to explore further, and suggestions on directions to explore with artists that I'm already familiar with.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I don't think I've ever seen the photograph on the left before. That's Joan Trumpauer Mulholland in the middle, at a Jackson Mississippi Woolworth's lunch counter sit-in in 1963. Her mugshot is the photo on the right, from here. It is remarkable to contemplate the courage of this person and the others who set about the task of ending apartheid in the United States. In this country it is still always about race in the end; in Arizona or in Kentucky, or anywhere, really.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

To the Party in the Hall last night, a fund raiser and a preview of the renovations/new wing of City Honors.
Just driving by the site for the past two years was enough to see that this was going to be an ambitious project, but I had no way of knowing just how grand the scope of it really was until we saw what was going on inside.
The pool and the gym are exciting, of course, and there are all the usual high tech bells and whistles: projection screens and whiteboards and the like.
They've opened up a lot of space, but what I liked best was that they used the old wood and the old fixtures, incorporating them into the renovation.
There's a sense in which this monument seems excessive-- the school is a palace in the midst of a poor neighborhood in a poor city.
On the other hand, the reason people give for moving out of the city is that the schools are better in the burbs. Whether that's true or not-- City Honors does have a national reputation, after all-- it is certainly true that the physical plant, attractive as it was, was also outmoded and worn.
This isn't the only school renovation in the city, but it is far and away the most elaborate. It is, I think, the most elaborate high school I've ever seen.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul is like a gift. He can't possible keep this pace up, but I'm looking forward to watching him make the effort.

Of course, none of this is likely to make any difference in The Blue Grass State. Jim Bunning was a moron too, and Kentuckians happily voted for him.

Splits among the four Appellate Divisions are great fun, and they can linger for a long time. The other day we talked about the Second Department's sui generis approach to non-party discovery. A tells me there is an upstate/downstate split on the question of who has the burden of proof of collectability. As with the discovery question the collectability is likely to endure for a while because the sorts of cases where this is an issue are far more likely to settle or otherwise resolve than they are to work their way up the the Court of Appeals. (Actually, it seems to me that the most probable path for the collectability thing to find its way to 20 Eagle Street might be by way of the certification process from the Second Circuit. Wouldn't that be exciting?)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I read stuff like this and I realize that I'm just going to have to start making my own damn pastrami, which is nuts.

I've been struggling with whether to pick up Terry Teachout's Louis Armstrong bio-- it probably is the one biography of Armstrong to read, but I find Teachout to be a prig, and although I respect his taste I can't say that we have the same taste. Readers of the Buffalo News will understand when I say that I'd almost rather that Jeff Simon had turned his hand to the task. I trust Simon's taste- I'm not so sure I feel the same way about a critic who doesn't seem to be down with Duke Ellington.

Robert Christgau says that Gary Giddins Armstrong book, "Satchmo" is "biographical criticism rather than a full biography", and that this means that Teachout's "Pops" is the definitive Armstrong for the moment. What that probably means is that I should read both. As I recall Armstrong also wrote at least one well-received memoir, and that probably goes into the beach bag too. I guess I'll just have to make a project out of it, because I'm not going to the beach any time soon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

From The Volokh Conspiracy, a description of this year's NRA convention by David Kopel, one of their contributors. 72,128 gun nuts wandering past three miles of displays of firearms, hunting gear, and related accessories in Charlotte, North Carolina. If there was ever a better nightmare description of hell I am not sure I want to see it. Chances are good that such a description would incorporate this list of featured speakers at the Friday afternoon "Celebration of American Values" leadership forum: Sarah Palin, John Thune, Haley Barbour, Mike Pence, and North Carolina Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler. (Yeah, the quarterback. Some guys have a rifle for an arm-- ol' Heath apparently just has a rifle.)

"Throughout the meeting, at event after event, the key word was not 'rifle' or 'gun.' In Charlotte, as at every convention for at least the last ten years, the word was 'American.' This is reflected in part in the genuine veneration which the NRA, at all levels, has for the American armed forces. The NRA membership and staff have a high proportion of military veterans, and at any convention event, a call-out to the active duty soldiers typically leads to a standing ovation.

"But more broadly, the NRA considers itself the embodiment of American patriotism, as the direct descendant of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison. This isn’t a point about constitutional originalism, but it is a point about four million people who have never thought that it was uncool to be patriotic, and who very much see themselves as carrying forward the sacred flame of liberty that was lit in 1776, was fought for on the beaches at Normandy and Guadalcanal, and which is based on eternal truth.

"Like any social and political movement, the NRA at times defines itself as oppositional-- as resisting 'the anti-gun mainstream media,' or Bill Clinton, or Michael Bloomberg. But the National Rifle Association of America is incapable of being oppositional to America itself, or of imagining itself to be countercultural. Founded in 1871 by Union army officers, and led in its early days by bipartisan Union Generals (such as retired U.S. President U.S. Grant, a Republican; and Winfield Scott Hancock, 'the hero of Gettysburg' and the 1884 Democratic presidential nominee), the NRA has always defined itself as the mainstream of America. Probably the only civic organization whose membership has included more U.S. Presidents than the NRA is the Boy Scouts-- and that’s because the Boy Scouts make every U.S. President into their honorary President. In short, Whig history is alive and well at the NRA, and based on the present and past successes of NRA in shaping American culture as a gun culture, that view of history cannot be said to be inaccurate."

I guess we all have our favorite parts of the Constitution, but making a fetish out of firearms and equating that with patriotism impresses me as profoundly screwy. For what it is worth, saying you are "the mainstream of America" doesn't necessarily make it so. Even though the gun nuts roaming the aisles of the Charlotte Convention Center are probably closer to the mainstream than I am, it seems presumptuous of them to make this claim. And the part about the Boy Scouts is weird and troubling too. The Boy Scouts are a pretty marginalized outfit these days, aren't they? The whole thing conjures an unappealing image to me, a small army full of pedophiles, armed to the teeth. And what's with the Whig stuff? Isn't it pretty much acknowledged that the Whigs were a disaster? Millard Filmore is buried three blocks from my house, but even in my neighborhood we know that the Fugitive Slave Act was a rotten thing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

When I started practicing the New York rule with respect to non-party discovery and non-party depositions was that you had to make a motion, on notice to your adversary and to the non-party who you wanted to depose or get discovery from. (We called depositions "EBTs" back then.) The standard that the court applied was whether there were "special circumstances" present which made the deposition necessary. This was a cumbersome, inefficient system, so in 1984 CPLR 3101 was amended to eliminate the special circumstances requirement. In relevant portion it now reads:

§ 3101. Scope of disclosure
(a) Generally. There shall be full disclosure of all matter material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action, regardless of the burden of proof, by:

(4) any other person, upon notice stating the circumstances or reasons such disclosure is sought or required.

In 2002 the legislature eliminated the requirement of bringing a motion-- now all anyone who wanted non-party discovery had to do was issue a subpoena. This was a sensible innovation as well-- since special circumstances were no longer required, there was no need to have the court micromanaging discovery, which everyone hates anyway.

Here's the part where I give a shout-out to a couple of CPLR mavins. In the "Practice Insights" to the Consolidated Law Service edition of the CPLR, edited by David L. Ferstendig, David Hamm says, "CPLR 3101(a)(4) seems clear enough, providing that the 'full disclosure' mandate applies not only to parties, but to 'any other person, upon notice stating the circumstances or reasons such disclosure is sought or required.' Like a party deposition, all one needs to show to obtain a non-party E.B.T. is that such testimony would be "material and necessary" to the action."

Unfortunately, the Second Department says nay. For reasons best known to the judges that sit serenely in the marble blockhouse in Brooklyn Heights the "special circumstances" rule that the legislature discarded two dozen years ago is still regarded as good law there-- great law, even. They've been insisting on this for a while now, and now, in a decision announced May 11, 2010, they have shifted their stance a bit and adopted what is apparently a crypto special circumstances rule. The case is Kooper v. Kooper, and it is all kinds of stupid and wrong.

It's a matrimonial. The defendant issued a half dozen subpoenas to banks, looking for financial information about the plaintiff, who moved to quash. Supreme Court granted the motion, and Anita R. Florio, Daniel D. Angiolillo, Cheryl E. Chambers and Plummer E. Lott affirmed. They say that it doesn't matter what the statute says, because the court has discretion in discovery matters. The Second Department reckons that if you want non-party discovery you should have to show something. Maybe you should demonstrate that the information was unobtainable from other sources; or that there is a conflict in statements between the plaintiff and nonparty witness; or that there are inconsistencies in the nonparty's statements that need to be clarified. It is not clear where this comes from, but we know where it doesn't come from-- you won't find it in the statute.

This decision is offensive. It creates a new rule, but that's not even the best part. After laying all this out the court goes on to say:

"We decline, here, to set forth a comprehensive list of circumstances or reasons which would be deemed sufficient to warrant discovery from a nonparty in every case."

You will just have to guess. We know that this rule is not in the statute, and in fact we've made it up out of whole cloth, but we aren't interested in telling you what we think the rule is; you'll just have to take an appeal and find out.

They also say, "The Legislature would not have included a separate subsection of the statute for nonparties if discovery from parties and nonparties were subject to identical considerations." This carries Bismarck's remark about law any and sausages to new heights. Not only is the Second Department genteelly averting its gaze from the operations of the New York State Legislature, it is pretending that the section in question wasn't an amendment to the statute, even though most of the opinion is a nostalgic look back at the way non-party discovery used to be conducted twenty five years ago.

Decisions like this mystify me. First of all, it creates a two track system for discovery which is, at a minimum, unwieldy, and actually probably impossible. You have to get your regular discovery done first, then show that it isn't enough. Then you have to be ready for motion practice, because a motion to quash will follow the issuance of a subpoena to a non-party as surely as a pastrami sandwich follows an appearance by me in the County of Kings. And an appeal will follow that more often than not, because only the Second Department knows the magic words that will allow a non-party deposition.

The really sad part is that there isn't an easy way to fix this. Some poor bastard is going to have to care enough about an item of non-party discovery to take the question to the Court of Appeals. A legislative fix isn't going to get it done-- what would you add to the statute? "We mean it-- no special circumstances need be shown"? That's not going to work under the crypto special circumstances regime. The Second Department will just call it something else.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Big props to my brother, who turned in a 2:02.45 in the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Could Maureen Dowd possibly be more offensive? Not in my house. I'd rather have Bill O'Reilly over for cocktails.

To Little League Opening Day yesterday, where LCA and her cohorts from City Honors Chorale sang the anthem. Holy crow they make a big deal out of this: hundreds of Little Leaguers march down Hertel Avenue to Shoshone Park, escorted by a fire engine. The Mayor was there, and four city council members and a judge and Sam Hoyt, who should probably have been in Albany working on the budget. Come to think of it, all of the politicians could have been spending their time more productively. They each got to say a few words to the group, and most of them said a few too many. Folks, nobody was there to hear you. The mayor got the first pitch over the plate, always a pressure filled moment.

Thence to OTB, where I played Super Saver, Looking At Lucky and Schoolyard Dreams. I'd looked at Jackson Bend, but First Dude was never on my radar.

Friday, May 14, 2010

People seem to want to like Laura Bush, but I don't. The way I see it she knew better than any one exactly what it would mean if her husband became president , and she was really the only person who could have stopped him. The way I reckon it that makes her fully culpable for what followed and the fact that she thinks gay marrage is okay and sneaks an occasional cigarette mitigates nothing.

Alan Dershowitz is so deliberately annoying and provocative that it is easy to lose track of how intelligent he is. His students are, I think, pretty lucky, although it must be a challenge for them to avoid becoming as annoying as he is. Dershowitz really is that smart-- for most other people his mannerisms amount to simply being abrasive for the sake of it. I'm sure I've been guilty of this offense, and I daresay most lawyers, if they are being honest with themselves, would admit the same. This interview captures all of that.

"What is the common law? The common law is a statement that says that we never quite get it right. Every lawsuit results from somebody doing something wrong. If everybody did right, we wouldn't need laws. It's mistakes, some accidental, some deliberate, that drive the law to constantly adapt and change. So I think it's crucially important that we look at errors and learn from them and adapt to them.

"I wrote a book called Rights from Wrongs, and the whole point of the book—which is my whole philosophy of life—is that we learn so much from our mistakes. Our rights come from all the wrongs we've done. The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments grew out of recognition of the horrors of slavery. The entire human-rights agenda internationally grew out of the Holocaust.... My whole philosophy is based on correcting error, trial and error. Or, rather, error and trial."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

More on the Exile reissue, an interesting mix of reminiscence and revisionist history.

"I was squeaky-clean when I got to France. It was after it was over that I went back on the stuff again, as a present to myself. But the work was first."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's May, and it's 44° and raining. Early days for my Personal Hit Single of the Summer, but I'll tell you this much: this cover of Wilco's "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" by JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound is going to be in heavy rotation for a while. Check it:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

It's been about twenty years since I've been to the track. I suppose I could fix the date more firmly if I cared to-- we have photographs of EGA togged out in baby jockey silks, and as I recall she looks about two. It's been a while, in any event. I keep my hand in, more or less, by playing the Triple Crown races, and since my folks live in a place that doesn't have an OTB setup I play their picks too. Thus it was that I was in the OTB on Delaware in North Buffalo yesterday, cashing in my dad's ticket and musing about the Sport of Kings. I wonder if there is any future for it, and I kind of doubt it.

The scene at the same OTB two Saturdays was different from the quiet Monday lunch hour yesterday, of course. It was more crowded, naturally, and there were a number of people who were pretty obviously amateur handicappers like me, only there to bet one race. The parking lot was filled with beater cars, and the cars that were the closest to the entrance were almost exclusively American-made, and mostly ten years old or older. It is no longer true that when I walk into an OTB I'm the youngest person in the room, but I still look younger than most of the people there, and I'm likely to outlive most of the people who are actually younger. So that's the first issue-- who follows this sport? Once upon a time a day at the track could be a sophisticated outing. When I'd go with my dad and my uncle they wore sports jackets and hats. That's how I learned to read the Racing Form, having breakfast with my father at Saratoga. OTB changed the dynamic somewhat, I think. It used to be that if you were a horseplayer you either went to the track or you called your bookie from work, but when the OTB parlors opened they became a place for the sorts of characters who used to winter at Aqueduct to hang out. When I walked into the OTB yesterday my first thought was that there is no reason for the place to be as disgusting as it is, but then it dawned on me that the reason is simple. It smells like smoke because the people in there all smell like smoke. It's filthy and poorly lit because it is run by the State of New York, and everything the State of New York runs is filthy and poorly lit-- with the exception of the State Capitol Building, which they keep nice for themselves. Although casinos have the reputation of being luxurious the fact is that they mostly really aren't, and even to the extent that they are the people who frequent them don't really notice one way or the other, at least in the US. OTB parlors don't even pretend: they are all linoleum and cheap paneling, with smudged glass teller windows and betting slips littering the floor. What's the demographic that's attracted to this? I like horse racing because it seems less like gambling than casino games do-- I research my picks, then watch the ponies run, and watch my picks keep running, long after the other ponies are in the shower. Watching the cards turn against me doesn't offer the same thrill because I have a better understanding of the fact that the game is designed to beat me. When I watch a 20-1 shot finish down the track I just reckon I outsmarted myself. Saying it out loud sounds pretentious, but I've always thought that horse players were a somewhat more cerebral sort than other gamblers. At least there is evidence that they know how to read. The reality, of course, is different. Playing the ponies is just another gambling fix, and the endorphin rush that gambling provides is poorly supplied by watching the third race at Pimlico. The payout is lousy too, particularly at OTB. Do bookies even take horse racing action these days?

So I wonder: are the people who follow horse racing able to support the sport? Are there enough of them? Do they put enough dough in it to make it profitable for the tracks? I suspect not, but I'd be interested in reading something about the economic model for thoroughbred horse racing. It seems more likely to me that it is a sport on the brink of collapse, and that makes a kind of sense. In the heyday of the sport people were familiar with horses. The United States was predominantly rural, and horses were everyday transportation even in cities. The only horses I see in my everyday life are under cops. In the 19th century the most popular sports were horse racing and boxing. Boxing is nearly extinct-- is horse racing next?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Kagan is a Mets fan. I like that. I liked Diane Wood, who had an established record and who didn't go to Harvard or Yale law. It's been a good year for women who went to Princeton and Harvard. Other things I like-- it's been a long time since we've seen a SC nominee who hasn't come from the bench. And she's young. Young-ish. At Lawyers Guns and Money the name Byron White is being bandied about. I hope not.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Good summary on the making of "Exile on Main Street", useful mostly for the bonus tracks 'authenticity' breakdown. As I suspected "Plunder My Soul" is essentially current Mick laid over an "Exile"-era track. I thought I heard Mick Taylor in there, and now it's as close as I'll get this spring. We were going to see him at the Tralf, but he's sick, and has canceled. Too bad-- although the set list from his show in Shirley, Massachusetts a week ago was short, he was getting solid reviews. Someone one quipped that there is nothing more limited than being a limited partner of George Steinbrenner, but being a member of the Stones has to come close. When you listen to their albums from this period you can hear a lot of things that wouldn't be there but for Taylor, but Jagger and Richards weren't sharing writing credits. Of course, Taylor's subsequent career doesn't provide much evidence of his writing ability either, but it wouldn't have killed the Glimmer Twins to have credited him on "Sway" or "Moonlight Mile". Taylor's first solo side was the only solo release by a Stone that I've ever bought, something I mentioned to my brother the other day. "I own it too," he said, which means that my family has a higher per capita interest in the solo career of the guy than most. I suppose I should have picked up a copy of a Bill Wyman solo at some point, and Wood's solo stuff is supposed to be pretty good, but these are sides that the remainder bin was invented for. Solo Mick demonstrates why Keith is essential ("Memo From Turner" excepted); and solo Keith pretty effectively establishes his limits as well. (I do like his version of "Run, Run Rudolph", but Christmas novelties aren't really resume items.)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

It would be interesting to go back and trace the history of roadside memorials. They were once unusual, and now they seem ubiquitous. There are three or four in the immediate vicinity of LCA's school, and I assume that these commemorate crime victims rather than people who were killed in motor vehicle accidents. They are the worse for the Buffalo winter. It seems to me that at some point a plaque should be substituted, but that probably wouldn't eliminate the impulse to adorn the site with teddy bears or whatever. Placing a pebble at a gravesite, which is the Jewish tradition, has always impressed me as more pleasing than flowers-- it is less cluttered. I am, apparently, in the minority on this. When I visited Hemingway's grave in Ketchum I found that the accepted token was a coin, but there were some pint bottles too. In a cemetery there are employees on hand to follow Blind Lemon Jefferson's instruction to his survivors, but removing roadside memorial clutter seems to be a more thankless task.

In Europe the highways are sometimes marked with small white crosses at the scenes of fatalities, but that always impressed me as more of a cautionary posting rather than some sort of shrine. Outside of Binghamton yesterday I saw a cross that was about four feet tall, with flowers and who knows what all, topped with a green hard hat. The effect of something like that is different than seeing a quiet white cross-- a funerary scarecrow does not inspire reverence or even sympathy in my mind.

Was it Princess Diana's death that set off this impulse? It was certainly well established by the time the planes hit the towers.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

In the back of my mind there is a place I can walk into where Juan-Carlos Formell and Johnny's Dream Club are always playing. Who knows what I am doing there-- maybe I ducked in for a drink, or to get out of the rain. Maybe I''m making myself scarce, waiting for things to cool off. Chances are I'll have something with rum in it-- beer doesn't work in this climate and the fruit juice in a Planter's Punch cuts through the syrupy emotionalism that fills the air in the these latitudes.

The sound of strings does too. Guitar, bass and violin sound different in the context of Latin jazz, but the piano in this group is another thing altogether, something I wish Bud Powell had lived to hear. The trombone sounds like it just drifted in over the air, which is more or less what happened-- like most Cuban jazz this is the sound of cross-pollination, and the trombone reminds us that the sound of New Orleans has been transmitting into the Caribbean for as long as there has been radio. I think I need more trombone in my life.

This is music like a Marquez novel, full of influences from everywhere, but a thing utterly unto itself. Just the look of the band is terrific: percussionist Jorge Leyva is a sort of dark-haired and handsome Ricky Ricardo type; Lewis Kahn, doubling on violin and trombone could be the brother that doesn't want to talk about Dick Cheney. On piano, Elio Villafranca, dreadlocked and nimble, his fingers a blur. Pedro Giraudo is on bass, taciturn in the tradition of bass players, although he occasionally raises an eyebrow just to show that he knows exactly how good this music is, and how indispensable he is to the making of it. At the center of it all is Formell, a versatile guitarist with a soulful tenor. For ten years Bruce Eaton has been producing shows at the Albright-Knox Art of Jazz series, almost certainly the most important cultural series in the region, in any art form. These shows are like being a baseball fan who lives in Alaska, and then the Yankees come to town. Sure, we can can get our jazz on in other ways, but the chance to hear the best in the business live and in a room in a world class gallery is something remarkably special.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Props to my dad, who had the Derby horse.

Do Music-Lovers Still Need Record Stores? I miss New World Record. I'm sure I'm not alone, and I'm sure that the other people who feel the same were never going to be able to keep the place going-- they were in the buggy-whip business, and a neighborhood store like that, even in a neighborhood like mine, is going to have a tough time. Even the proximity to Buff State couldn't save it, since college kids are the exact demographic that has abandoned buying music as an artifact. These days I find music several ways: XM Radio has stations that play new things that I like, for example. (Would I have picked up on the Avett Brothers via The Spectrum? Probably-- I'm pretty likely to give any song that references Brooklyn a chance. XMU is also useful for those times when I'm wondering what the hell Pitchfork is on about.) Deep Tracks and Underground Garage both reconnect me to things I haven't listened to in a while.

And there are websites, of course. Popdose, is very useful; so is Aquarium Drunkard; and I am also fond of Rollo & Grady. Any Major Dude With Half A Heart overcomes the clunkiness of its off-site download process by providing well-researched content and unusual selections. (I particularly the regular feature on Answer Songs.) Something Else! services my jazz interests, although this is an itch that I mostly scratch in other ways. Heather Browne's I Am Fuel, You Are Friends is always charming. Of course, what I'm realling doing here is listing my current "preferred gatekeepers", but anybody with an appetite for music always has such.

Was there ever a time when I needed a record store to guide my purchasing decisions? I am not so sure I did. Back when J&R was a store I'd visit a couple of times a week (it was across the street from my office, okay? And near the courthouse.) I was reading Christgau and Giddins,and Greil Marcus, and Rolling Stone wasn't useless. Dale Anderson was the Dean of Buffalo rock critics when I was a law student; and it really was a kind of golden age for music criticism generally. We didn't ask the people in record stores for advice-- what we were really looking for from them was a little validation. For me that is the big thing that's been lost in my music purchasing, and although I miss it I also understand that validation is not much of a business model.

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