Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, January 31, 2011

To the Charles Lloyd Quartet yesterday, the second event in this season's Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz series at the Albright-Knox. In his pre-show remarks producer Bruce Eaton talked a bit about the reputation the program has acquired over the years among jazz musicians: apparently the room and the audience are an inducement to artists like Lloyd, and why not? It is, to my way of thinking, a perfect way to pass a mid-winter afternoon, ensconced in a comfortable room, the last light of day filtered through the bare trees outside. Lloyd's one of those cats who's been around, schooled by Phineas Newborn, working with Chico Hamilton, Cannonball Adderly, then leading bands featuring, inter alia Keith Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette. I think of him as the guy who played "Forest Flower", and had sort of mystical, Eastern influenced approach. I did not know that he'd dropped out of jazz for a time: Dick Judelson told me that the last time he'd seen Lloyd he was backing up the Beach Boys.

In any event he was in fine form Sunday, mostly working in a post-bop style, backed by a rhythm section-- Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Roger, bass and Eric Harland, drums that'd would be worth seeing all by themselves. He gave them a lot of room, which was fine with me, at one point wandering off to stare out the window at Hoyt Lake for a few minutes before coming back on stage to take his solo. In his review for the Buffalo News Garaud MacTaggart was less enthusiastic about the performance than I was, although we probably think more or less alike about the last number they performed before the encore. Called “Tagi” it featured Lloyd joining Moran at the piano, Harland vocalizing didgeridoo sounds into a microphone, and Roger bowing his bass while Lloyd recited verse from the Bhagavad Gita. I have stuff like that on vinyl on my shelves-- it used to sound great late at night in a dorm room-- but it's not so much what I'm into these days.Even so I think MacTaggart is a bit harsh: "In some respects, it was an interesting piece that focused on a spiritual aspect obviously important to Lloyd, but it wasn’t exactly like hearing 'A Love Supreme.'" Maybe not, but the people we were with liked it fine, and it seems to have stuck with other people who were in in the audience as well.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Best Beer Restaurants 2011. Buffalo's got two of them. The other cities with more than one: D.C., Rome (the actual Rome in Italy, not the one near Utica), Philly, Brussels and Tampa. 

Something about this list seems odd to me. I'm sure the joints listed are great, but nothing in Manhattan? Or LA? No doubt Jerry's is great, but I think most Chicagoans would direct you to HopLeaf. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Off to the Apple tomorrow, something I usually look forward to. This time I'm not so sure: it looks like a mess, and although I'll have a little time to poke around I'm not so sure that getting around is going to be all that easy. Most people in Buffalo would use this opportunity to talk about how well we deal with snow, but that's not completely true: what we do when our weather is like this is what Southerners do when their weather is intolerably hot. Both cultures just slow down. New York can't slow down, or maybe it just doesn't want to, and am not so sure I want it to either. I want to stop at J&R Records, and get a haircut and maybe stop at Niketown, and have a sandwich, and oh yeah, go to the meeting I'm going there for. I have a feeling that the meeting will be all I'll get to.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh, and Happy Australia Day to all!

Buffalo Spree editor and movie critic Christopher Schobert and I will be handicapping the Academy Awards this week and next at the Spree blog. Our thoughts on Best Actor are here.

Eight gout causing foods. They forgot oysters. Adding insult to injury, continues: "Feel like you’re left with nothing to eat? Not true, experts say. There are actually several types of foods that may help protect you against gout. These include low-fat dairy foods, complex carbohydrates, coffee, and fruits, especially citrus fruits." Nice to know that coffee is okay, especially since I have finally managed to cut my coffee consumption to about a cup a day. And hey! Low-fat dairy! Doesn't that mean cheese that tastes like chalk? Well all right then! Thanks,!

Monday, January 24, 2011

There's a James Thurber story called "The Greatest Man in the World" about an aviator who flew around the world. The press was anxious to lionize him, but Jack ("Pal") Smurch, "erstwhile mechanic's helper in a small garage in Westfield, Iowa" turns out to be a thug. Confronted with the reality of a national hero who is not cut from heroic cloth the assembled press secretly assassinate Smuch, then write their story the way these sorts of stories are always written. It's a nicely done bit of work: when he put his mind to it Thurber was an exquisite writer-- he dates now because his great subject was his own misogyny.

Which brings us to Ben Roethlisberger. When we talk about all-time great quarterbacks-- or just about the best QBs of the moment-- he has to be in the conversation, and that is an awkward thing, to say the least, because the rest of the conversation about Ben Roethlisberger has to include the sexual assault allegations in Lake Tahoe in 2008 and in Milledgeville, Georgia, in 2010. It's too bad Michael Vick and the Eagles didn't make it to the Super Bowl: it would have been interesting to see how the league, the press and the public dealt with that sort of cognitive dissonance. My hunch is that the spin on Vick would have been about his "quest for redemption" and the Roethlisberger story would have been about his quest for a third ring.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

For the next two weeks I'm a Packers fan.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bears-Packers is so old school it's irresistible. Two classic NFL teams, traditional rivals, playing in weather, the way it is supposed to be done. I like the Packers in this one, mostly because Aaron Rodgers has had a season that suggests he is becoming one of the league's elite quarterbacks.

Watching athletes and teams become something is one of the great joys in sports, isn't it? When we had Mets tickets back in the 80s it was fun to watch Gary Carter being the best catcher in baseball, but it was even more fun to look out to right field and think about what Darryl Strawberry might be. When Darryl's high school classmate, Eric Davis would come to town it was fun to watch him and think that we might be seeing two players that might become among the all-time greats. That it didn't work out that way didn't spoil the pleasure we took in thinking about it in the moment. In the NFL it seems like it is a somewhat more gradual process, I think.  Teams get better until they are just about nearly there, and then they either break through or fall apart. It took a couple of seasons for this Indianapolis Colts team to become as good as it is, and now I'm thinking that this Jets team may be arriving. Don't get me wrong-- I'm  not a Jets fan, as such. I left the Jets when I left NYC, and I have no intention of backsliding. The years of pain they put me through were relieved as soon as I arrived in the Queen City of the Lakes and realized that the Bills were a Better Way, and I got here just in time to apprechiate them going from terrible to pretty good to "Wow, They Are Amazing!" Still, I respect what Rex has done with the Jets: more than Parcells could, or Belichick wanted to. They seem like they are poised to join the league's elite. They are knocking on the door.

The Steelers, on the other hand, feature a QB who is the embodiment of entitled-athlete loathsomeness. The Jets have come up with an answer for two of the best teams in the league, but this game looks like the toughest thing they've had to deal with yet.I think this will come down to defense, and defensive coaching, and I'm thinking that Rex may have the edge there.

Friday, January 21, 2011

I'm glad this was captured for posterity. It is, of course, the look-- almost a flinch-- that Emily gave me as the shaman intoned, "If there is anyone here who knows of any reason why these two should not be joined...."

CLA turned to give me a cautioning glare as well.

UB Council President Jeremy Jacobs sent around an email blast updating the UB President search status:

"To date, the committee has reviewed the credentials of 69 candidates, representing a diverse national and international pool from a wide range of academic disciplines and professional experiences. The committee of the whole met with 10 candidates for a first round of intensive interviews, and subsequently met with more than half of those for a more protracted second round of small group interviews. Following extensive discussions with on- and off-list references, we are focusing our attention on a smaller group of candidates, each of whom offers superb qualifications for the presidency.

"All of these candidates have enjoyed distinguished academic careers, with some among the most preeminent scholars in their disciplinary fields. Our short list includes individuals who are serving or have served very successfully in administrative leadership roles such as provost, vice president for research, vice president for health sciences and dean-all at leading AAU institutions-and all with an impressive portfolio of administrative accomplishments."

That's impressively vague, but it sounds to me like they interviewed 10, had a second interview with six, and are now down to four. That's short-list territory-- don't they usually announce who's on the short list? In any event, it appears that they will be filling the position by the end of this semester. That's pretty quick work for this sort of thing.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Western New York Running Hall of Fame is a great idea-- although it would come as a surprise to many people from here and from other places Buffalo and its environs has a long history with the sport, and a large and active running community. I can't think of too many places where the sport is more accessible, actually. There are races essentially every week, from 5ks on up (we have a spring marathon and a fall marathon.  How great is that?), multiple specialty stores where knowledgeable people give advice about equipment, a biweekly column in the Buffalo News (seriously, how many papers cover participatory sports as well as the News?), and a sporting culture that welcomes newcomers and encourages competition.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I'm extremely pleased to have been invited to participate in the CEPA Gallery's "Visions of Greater Buffalo" event this year. The idea is fun: CEPA invites people from the business, arts, non-profit, educational, political and community service areas to make photographs depicting the region, then mounts a show of the resulting images. My law partner was a board member of CEPA before departing for Scandinavia, and in the past her photographs have won awards; this is a chance for me to see if I learned anything from her.

My sense is that the real trick is to avoid cliche. The other challenge is going to be light and color. I have until the end of February, and although snow capped sculpture is certainly a fair representation of what the coming days will hold that's not what I want to be depicting.

Coincidentally, Slate has a piece today on "slow photography" . My usual approach is to bash out a bunch of shots, then sort out the ones I like later-- the Nick Lowe school. For this event I have been issued a 27 shot disposable camera, so the slow approach makes better sense. Probably also a coincidence: Milton Rogovin died this morning. (UPDATE: Excellent interview with Rogovin from Buffalo Spree by my friend Bob Hirsch here; NYTimes obit here.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

A few random thoughts.

■  At this point I'd say you'd have to have a heart of stone to not be rooting for the Jets-- and I hate the Jets.

■  Second Amendment advocates (or as I think of them, gun nuts) like to talk about how they need their sidearms for protection. In that context it is interesting to note that nobody in Tucsan was made safer, and that the guy with the gun who ran towards the shooting could have as easily shot one of the people who were struggling to subdue Jared Loughner. Making too much stew out of one oyster has been the hallmark of this event, but this has been my take-away: in a place where there are a lot of guns guns are the problem, not the solution. As bad as it was, they very nearly had a full-on Cohen Brothers movie going on, and would have if someone else had decided to throw down.

■  Martin Luther King's Birthday is, I think, mostly marked by considering the successes of the American Civil Rights movement, and seems to be generally thought of as a holiday for African-Americans. It shouldn't be that way. Instead we should use the day as an occasion to reflect upon the inequities that continue to pervade our society. Race is still a part of this, of course, but now more than maybe ever it is economic injustice which characterizes and defines America. One of the best places to start thinking about this remains health care: the House is taking up the roll-back of the health care reform legislation passed last term, and the way it is talked about should be shocking to anyone. We are a country that refuses to take care of our people, and this is a point of pride: we wouldn't want to be confused with France or Belgium or Canada after all.

■  I've been trying to remember the title of a book I read when I was a kid all weekend. Details about it were there, but like a caraway seed lodged in a tooth the title would not dislodge from my mind no matter how hard I tried to worry it. It was about a boy growing up in Greenwich Village who wanted to play guitar. His father took him to see an exhibition of Jackson Pollack paintings, and there was a jewel theft. The kid was subject to stage fright unless he had his teddy bear.... It was called "The Teddy Bear".... something, and Google couldn't help me. The Teddy Bear Caper? The Teddy Bear Problem? About a half hour ago it hit me: it was The Teddy Bear Habit, by James Lincoln Collier.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Darius G. Pridgen is a local shaman who has been a very visible civic presence around here for quite a while. He was just elected to the Common Council in Buffalo, and I see by today's paper that he is working on a resolution that will call on the mayor and other city officials to scrutinize security in City Hall. I suppose this is an understandable response to the events in Tucson last week, but it is, I think, a wrong-headed impulse. Government buildings should be open and accessible. It makes me sad every time I go to court and have to deal with the hassle. In state court I have a magic card that gets me past the metal detectors, but this is of small use when I'm going there with a client. Federal court is, of course, a big make-a-federal-case-out-of-it production. I have to show ID, empty my pockets, and naturally my Swiss Army knife isn't going in. I like courthouses, and I like the idea that the justice system is the branch of government that everyone is empowered to participate in directly. I hate that the courts feel as though the have to behave as though they are under siege. People should be able to walk in and watch without feeling as though they are subjecting themselves to law enforcement scrutiny. I shouldn't have to feel like that in City Hall either. Unfortunately, the Rev. Pridgen's resolution sounds like it will result in some security consultant noting that the building could be made more secure by limiting the number of entrances, and putting cops all over the place, and installing metal detectors, and all the rest of it. I can't say if that will make the place any safer-- nobody can, really. I can say that it will make me feel estranged from the governmental process, and I suspect that it will estrange the people who work there from their constituencies.

The Rev. Pridgen has a church on the East Side. Were I so inclined I could attend services there tomorrow simply by walking in. That is how government should be too.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I didn't understand Facebook for a long time, but once I got a smartphone I started to get it. Facebook fascinates me because people in their 20's and younger- people who grew up with the internet-- use it as the internet. It isn't a site, it's a platform, and in some ways it goes beyond being either. For example, consider this: over the weekend my daughter got married. The photographer told us he would mail us a CD with his pictures on it. Some friends said they would email their digital pix. Other people have flikr sites, and Snapfish sites with photos.  But the way it's done now is actually like this:  one of Mrs. Smart's attendants Facebook friended me the next day, which gave me access to dozens of her photographs, all neatly tagged and captioned. I guess she did it while she was at the airport. What's really remarkable about that is that for her it wasn't remarkable at all- this is how people who know how to use Facebook interact. Another example: because I am Facebook friends with several of the people who were at this event, I can see who among the guests who weren't acquainted before friended each other after. This gives me a kind of insight into the relationships among the guests that I probably could never have had before. Serious Facebook users chat, and track their friends and basically use it as a form of socializing. For them email is for work, and the rest of the web is a secondary destination.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thursday, January 06, 2011

I think the best thing I saw while the World Junior Hockey Championship was in town was the two guys walking up Chippewa at lunch time the other day. They were both wearing red Team Canada sweaters, and one of them was carrying a "two-four" of Labatts cans. I don't know if it is possible to imagine two happier people than they were in that moment.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

When UB President John Simpson announced he was stepping down at the beginning of the fall term it seemed to have caught most people utterly flat-footed. He-- or maybe he and his lieutenant, Scott Nostaja, or maybe Simpson, Nostaja and Jeremy M. Jacobs, Chairman of the UB Council, had a plan, sort of, but it was a half-baked plan, and they backed away from it. Now Mr. Jacobs has emailed the UB listserve to let us know that "the search committee has received nominations of exceptionally well qualified candidates from some of the nation's best universities" and that "We continue to narrow the pool to those candidates in whom we are especially interested," and President Simpson has emailed the listserve to advise that he's agreed to continue to serve as president for a limited period of time beyond January 15th while the search process moves toward a conclusion."

I don't think anyone expected that we'd have a new university president by January 15, 2011-- that would be unusually fast. This flurry of correspondence suggests to me that (a) Simpson's resignation really was as abrupt a move as it appeared at the time; (b) the University Counsel is not inclined to work with an interim president (that's usually the Provost). Is this because nobody wants to be the interim president? It doesn't sound like it is because the search committee is close to wrapping up its work-- usually that is preceded by the announcement of a shortlist, isn't it? Jacobs' email made it sound like that's a ways off yet.The whole thing is quite odd. I can't say that there should be more transparency-- it's a hiring process after all-- but I wish I felt better about how it was proceeding. The whole thing has been handled in a very tone-deaf way.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Starting out you have to have a smart guy.  Sometimes it is a smart guy who is aware of a specific menace that is unknown to the rest of the world-- Nils Caulder, Professor X.  Sometimes its just a guy who is smart-- Reed Richards, for example, or Brainiac 5.  Sometimes the smart guy has some sort of telepathy, but if not chances are you'll pick up a telepath or a telekinetic or someone like that somewhere along the way.  You'll be needing a strong guy. Ben Grimm, The Hulk, you know the type.  The cliche is that that the strong guy is not as smart as the smart guy, but this isn't always true: the She-Hulk is plenty smart, and although he's no Batman Superman had solid SATs. You can have more than one smart guy, but when that happens the second smart guy is usually actually really smart at tactical stuff, and as a rule the Alpha smart guy is prevented from engaging in field operations for some reason.

I don't know why, but having a stretchy guy is frequently important. Reed Richards, Elasti-Girl (Rita Farr or Helen Parr), the Elongated Man, Plastic Man. It's good to have someone with some sort of energy manipulation power.  Maybe magnetism, like Cosmic Boy or Havock; maybe straight flame, like Johnny Storm; maybe electricity. It is traditional for energy manipulation to be something that is accomplished with the hands, but shooting out of the eyes is also acceptable, as is just turning into the energy form, like the Torch, or Negative Man.

It used to be that an underwater guy was important, but that is no longer as fashionable.  A guy who has a bow and arrows-- especially arrows that have bombs, or do other tricky things-- is a very good thing to have.  The arrows guy should have a hot girlfriend who is a martial arts expert. Somebody with magical powers is also handy, and although there are exceptions, as a rule this is also going to be a woman-- Zatanna Zatara, Wanda Maximoff. We'd go with Zatanna on this one: fishnets trump wimples. Speaking of Wanda, you are also going to want a fast guy, and a guy who is a robot. Guys that shrink, or shrink and control bugs are no longer in vogue. People who can control the weather, and people who can turn into animals are common, but not really necessary. Invisibility, although a common enough superpower, isn't the sort of thing that everybody seems to feel the need to add to the team.  The Legion of Super Heroes usually has an invisible person, and that is one of J'onn J'onzz 's powers, but the X-Men, the Defenders, the Doom Patrol, the Avengers, the Teen Titans, the DNAgents and lots of others get along fine without.

What am I leaving out?

Monday, January 03, 2011

"Forbidden Planet" is one of those movies that'll stop me scrolling no matter where in the story I'm picking it up, and so it was last night-- we came in after the cook had negotiated the manufacture of the bourbon with Robbie the Robot, but before Robbie delivered. Anne Francis was playing squidgulum with a crew member.  She's dead now, age 80.  ""I got that part because I was under contract to MGM and I had good legs," she said once, and yes she did.  She went on to play Honey West, and something I did not know was that West's pet ocelot was named Bruce Biteabit.

David Paterson goes out the way he came in: saying the right things and doing the right things. He couldn't have known what he was wandering into: what he thought he was getting was a seat in the US Senate, and by the way, if Elliot Spitzer had that in mind at the time, doesn't that speak rather well of Spitzer? What Paterson ended up with, of course, was a very different thing. His personal life was turned inside out, and he inherited a mess that went far beyond the mere dysfunction in the legislature that Spitzer had brought him in to help mediate. Paterson handled it all the way I think it should be handled, by forthrightly acknowledging the situation, whether it was his own checkered past, or the profoundly broken structure of state government.  His reward for this was mockery, and when he had the audacity to appoint someone to the Senate seat that he'd wanted for himself that was not the person that the political press had decreed  as the proper heir, notwithstanding the fact that Kristen Gillibrand has been a pretty good Senator from New York, his career was over. Poor son of a bitch, I wish him well.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

As it happens Chuck Berry has been on my mind lately-- along with Miles Davis, who I think was actually from East St. Louis, on the other side of the river, in Illinois-- Berry is a St. Louis native, and we'll be journeying there for the wedding of my first born. In the odd way that my mind works I've been thinking about the place rather than the event.  Needless to say, it is distressing to learn that Berry, the Leibniz of rock and roll, collapsed on stage last night. He's 84, and I hope he's feeling better.

(Who else is from St. Louis that has contributed as much as Miles and Chuck?  T.S. Elliot?  I don't think so-- he was the worst kind of Englishman-- a fake Englishman.  Yogi Berra?  Maybe.  Charles Lindbergh? A Nazi sympathizer. Masters and Johnson belong on the list, and Stan Musial, I suppose. Vincent Price. Ike Turner, absolutely (the Issac Newton of rock and roll). This handy Wikipedia list can't be entirely trusted-- Samuel Clemons wasn't from St. Louis, for example-- but it is a starting place for discussion.)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A quiet New Years Eve in, watching movies, one of which was Salt, Angelina Jolie's thriller about a Russian mole in the CIA.  It's not easy to pick a movie that A and I will both watch: her threshold for cinematic violence is pretty low, and I won't watch anything with Hugh Grant, so that narrows the field pretty quickly. Salt was actually in the red zone for violence, but she hung in, and we both managed to get past the fact that the geopolitics of the thing were grotesquely off base.  This was accomplished by virtue of Jolie's action-figure performance, which just never quit.  There were quite a few things to like about the movie, but my take-away was that I want to have a go-bag.

When Evelyn Salt goes on the run she stops at her house and picks up a prepared daypack.  As a narrative device this is great: we immediately want to know what she's got in the bag. Among other things she's got a big bundle of cash, always handy, always the right size. It would be a good idea to have a backup phone I think-- mine would be an old one, with a broken hinge, and the wrong charger.  I'd have some foreign money, too, but it would be stuff nobody uses anymore-- French francs, probably.  I'd have a first aid kit, but it would be filled with old band-aid wrappers, and an empty jar of Vaseline. I'd have a fake library card, and dental floss-- useful for oral hygiene and as a weapon! A corkscrew.  A bottle opener.  A golf pencil.

When the October Surprise snowstorm hit Buffalo a few years back the only flashlight my sister-in-law had in the house was a novelty penlight from the manufacturer of Viagra.  I have one too, and this seems like a good use for it.

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