Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Damn, they caught the Bronx Zoo Cobra just when its Twitter feed was starting to get good. From the Village Voice's account of the press conference:

"'She is in a different enclosure where the rest of the venomous snakes are.' Great, now she can tell them all how to escape."

Apparently the snake doesn't have a name, although New York magazine has been lobbying hard for "Shawsnake". New York deserves props for the best coverage of this story, I'd say:

"Last we heard, officials at the Bronx Zoo were just going to wait it out until Shawsnake got too comfortable or too hungry and emerged from whatever dark recesses of the reptile house she's been hiding in. Could take weeks, they said, but no biggie! Only a handful of weirdos are being kept from visiting the reptile house anyway. But apparently they're starting to feel some pressure."

Now that the snake has been captured I guess we'll have to go back to paying attention to the three wars we've got going on, and Mitt Romney, and a bunch of other stuff I'd rather not think about.

I'm still enough of a science geek to be excited by the information coming back from NASA's Messenger mission to Mercury, but it reminds me about the key reality with respect to space travel, one which most SciFi conveniently glosses over. Holy crow, there's a lot of space in space. The Messenger spacecraft took six and a half years to arrive. You know who isn't going to spend 12 years in a space ship to go to Mercury and back? People.

Even so, reading things like "Mercury's day is about twice as long as its year, which lasts for 88 Earth days," takes me back to my childhood visits to the Hayden Planetarium, with its set of scales that showed how much you'd weigh on each of the planets, and real meteorites that you could touch.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

For reasons only known to my brain, this morning the Schaefer beer jingle popped into my head, where it is now firmly lodged. What a beautiful song: "Schaefer is the one beer to have when you're having more than one. Schaefer pleasure doesn't fade, even when your thirst is done. The most rewarding flavor in this man's world, for people who are having fun." It's a song about pounding beers for the sheer joy of it-- it could have been written by The Replacements!

There wasn't a lot of Schaefer around by the time I got to beer drinking, but there was some. As I recall it tasted like aluminum cans, and was best guzzled icy cold. You could buy it at the deli, but I don't think many people did. It was the beer they served at the ball park, or the racetrack, in big wax paper cups. More than one? Oh hell yeah.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

All my life I've wondered about this boid, who appears on bumper stickers, on Nigel Tufnel's guitar and as a tattoo on Nick Cage in "Raising Arizona". I knew that it was some sort of gearhead thing, but what? Was this "Thrush" related to the THRUSH in "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."? What did Woody Woodpecker have to do with all this? Driving home last night I was stopped at a tollbooth behind a minivan with a peculiar assortment of bumperstickers: "You Haven't Worked Full-Time Until You've Been a Mom", Eden Softball, and this woodpecker boid, and I was finally moved to Google it-- something I should have done years ago. There are apparently several of these boids. One is named Mr. Horsepower and is the logo of Clay Smith Cams. Another is the Thrush Bird-- Thrush makes mufflers. Apparently the difference is that Mr. Horsepower smokes a cigar. Walter Lantz asked for permission to use Mr. Horsepower's likeness for Woody Woodpecker, so Mr. H is the original. I'm still not sure where Thrush fits in with all this. Awesome tat though.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Leonard Weinglass has died, an occasion which makes me reflect on what we do, why we do it, and why it is important. Among the things we do is to tilt at windmills. We do this because we also fight City Hall, and sometimes the windmills look as thought they might be City Hall. We fight City Hall because that's the only way to keep the system honest, and keeping the system honest is a lot more important than the guilt or innocence or rightness or wrongness of any particular individual or cause. People lose track of this. Smart guys like Chuck Schumer, for example, shoot off their mouths about people who have been accused of crimes as though the accusation is the same as a conviction. Leonard Weinglass represented unpopular people, which is probably the most important, least glamorous thing we do in our glamor profession.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The best thing about being a member of the New York Bar Association's CPLR Committee is that I get to watch a lot of really smart people make really intelligent arguments. Sometimes the things we discuss are so arcane that only members of the CPLR Committee care enough to argue about them, but nearly all the time these are topics that everyone should care about. Right now the New York State Legislature is considering changes to the way medical malpractice litigation is handled. There's a lot of back story to it, but apparently med mal reform is being offered as part of an overall redesign of Medicaid. It looks like the med mal stuff is in there to make some of the things that the medical industry doesn't like a bit more palatable. The proposals include a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases; the creation of a certificate of merit requirement which would the oblige plaintiff’s attorneys to certify as to each named defendant that there was an expert review of the case by an expert in the same specialty as the defendant; and change discovery rules in med mal cases to require expert witness disclosure and expert depositions. There has been a fascinating back-and-forth on the CPLR Committee's listserve, and I think the arguments against this legislation are worth setting out here. Some of these are points I've raised, and some a paraphrases of others' points. The other side of the coin is, basically, caps on damages are good because juries make awards that are too big; expert depositions are the rule in federal court and other jurisdictions; and, more or less, plaintiffs' lawyers are big crooks.

Caps on damages in particular types of claims are illogical. I cannot understand why someone who is unfortunate enough to sustain an injury at the hands of a medical professional should be entitled to anything less than the full measure of damages to which a similarly injured person run over by a truck would receive. In addition, caps discriminate against low income individuals, including retirees, housewives, and children.For high income wage earners, attorney fee awards (and the significant disbursements necessary in these types of lawsuits) may be fairly readily deductable from the economic damages which a jury might award. Low income wage victims of malpractice will not be made whole by judgments because the attorney fees and expenses will have to come out of money the jury intended to be used to compensate for out of pocket costs.

The expert certification requirement is loathsome. Lawyers are obliged to act in good faith, and frivolous claims are subject to sanction. It is not at all uncommon to have to resort to discovery in order to obtain all of the material necessary to prevail on a medical malpractice claim, and imposing this pre-action requirement-- which is actually more rigorous than what a plaintiff is obliged to prove at trial-- would have the effect of screening out potentially meritorious claims. Lawyers who take and prosecute med mal cases without making inquiry as to whether the matter rises to the level of malpractice usually live to regret the expenditure of time and money which they undertook on a whim. These cases are expensive, and they are defended with vigor. The numbers speak for themselves: the overwhelming (I've heard 98%) number of med mal cases that go to verdict result in no-causes. I have a problem with the idea that catastrophically injured people, who are confronted with medical expenses and all kinds of other stuff while dealing with their loss of income should be burdened with additional costs for "certification" of their claims' merit. Lawyers screen their cases pretty carefully I've found. Because we are the bank most of the time few of us are willing to take on unnecessary risk. The certification requirement is simply an attempt to create an economic disincentive for bringing otherwise worthwhile, or at least arguably worthwhile, claims. It operates to prejudice the rights of poor people, and it probably consolidates medical malpractice claims in a small number of firms. That also prejudices potentially legitimate claimants, by limiting their freedom to choose counsel.I have no doubt that there are fraudulent claims. I saw the set up to one yesterday.  In my experience  they are very rare, and I suspect that they are particularly rare in the context of medical malpractice. Med mal claims themselves are increasingly rare, so this legislation, which penalizes legitimate claimants and honest lawyers, impresses me as bad medicine for a nearly non-existent condition.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thirty years in the business but there is always something new to see. Today I saw a staged accident, first time ever for me. I'm not sure I've ever handled a case, on either side, as fake as this. Took the bus into work today. I was running behind, so I was noticing every stop, and how inefficiently people were handling their fares. I'm not sure where they got on-- Utica, maybe. There were three people at the stop, a man, a blond woman, and an African-American woman. The man got on first, which struck me, then fumbled around with his fare. The blond went past him-- did she have a pass? When they got on I'd thought that they were together, and they turned out to be. They sat behind me. I was in the second row, on the right side, in the outside seat. I was listening to my iPod, so I couldn't really hear what they were saying, but I could hear that they were speaking oddly loudly, and I got the impression that they were not particularly bright people.

As the bus approached the stop in front of Westminster (is that North?) the man got up and walked past me. The bus stopped. The bus was stopped, and the guy went into a slide as though he was going into second base. He landed on his right side, and started screaming, "My leg, my leg!" I do not recall seeing him holding either leg. This business went on for a couple of minutes. The woman was with him at this point. The driver told them to wait until he'd gotten his passengers onto the bus that was following. The guy was shouting that he wanted an ambulance, and that he wanted something written that said he'd fallen on the bus.People were getting off the bus. I wrote my contact information on a scrap of paper, and exited through the front, making a point of noting the condition of the floor. It was wet (we are having a freak snow storm today, which is the reason I am in town in the first place), but emphatically not slippery. I gave the driver the paper with my contact information, and got on the next bus.

I doubt that anything will come of this, but it will be interesting to see if the NFTA calls me. I know from bitter experience that they are aggressive in the way they defend claims, and this one looked so phoney that I very much doubt that the guy (or the couple, I suppose) will have much luck finding a lawyer to touch it.

Bob Dylan and the Law. Perhaps this sort of quality conference programing is why Fordham was ranked ahead of UB in the most recent US News survey. Just for fun I went to the UB Law website to see what we have coming up in the next couple of months. The Environmental Law Program and Baldy Center hosts the conference "Hydrofracking: Exploring the Legal Issues in the Context of Politics, Science and the Economy". I think I'm giving blood that day. "Corporate Family Leave Policies, the Family & Medical Leave Act, and Women's Occupational Standing in U.S. Firms". Good thing I'm a apheresis donor-- I can use the blood excuse lots. If I happened to be in the building (which I won't be) I suppose I might look into the talk on the Treaty of Lisbon, but that's because it's an esoteric subject that I've read a bit about in the past. There can't be twenty people in a fifty mile radius who could tell you what the Treaty of Lisbon is about.

I don't mean to disparage serious academic stuff, but would it be so bad to sponsor something with some popular interest? I don't just mean Lawyers in Movies, but c'mon, let's have something that's a little less "Eat Your Vegetables."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Pinetop said it: 'You know the blues got soul'".

"Originally a guitarist, Mr. Perkins concentrated exclusively on the piano after an incident, in 1943, in which a dancer at a juke joint attacked him with a knife, severing the tendons in his left arm. The injury left him unable to hold a guitar or manage its fretboard." Interesting-- I was listening to an old interview with Dr. John a couple of weeks ago and learned that he used to be a guitarist until the tip of his finger was shot off in an altercation. So it's a good idea to have a second instrument is what I'm taking away from these stories.

Rest in peace, Mr. Perkins.

Monday, March 21, 2011

To the Robert Glasper Trio at Bruce Eaton's Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz yesterday, the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles of local arts programing, only good. Glasper has a light, lyrical sound, playing on top of the muscular bass of Derrick Hodge and Mark Colenburg's drums, but he used all of the piano, rapping on the case or muting a string to add persuasion effects, and rolling a strong left hand when called for. The three of them also work the hip-hop side of the street, although to my ears this was an influence that has been absorbed, rather than a style of playing overlaid on their jazz sensibilities. (The influence is more pronounced sartorially: low rise jeans are unexpected on a jazz pianist.) They made a point of entertaining as a means of connecting with the audience, clowning around musically and jiving with each other ("What's your name?" Glasper asked Hodge through the show, feigning lack of recognition). Funny to think that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” may be on its way to becoming a piano jazz standard-- Glasper's version is as different from The Bad Plus' as The Bad Plus' was from the original, but they all work.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I have said for years that Buffalo is the most segregated city I've ever lived in. Turns out it is one of the top ten
most segregated urban areas in the country, weighing in at number six. Of course we are dealing with a somewhat loaded category here: "urban area" is different from "city" after all. This map is a bit misleading too-- there are big stretches in Erie and Niagara counties that are pretty lightly populated, and this suggests a similar density throughout. Still, it is interesting all the same.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

I wonder if the Sabres 1975 Stanley Cup loss might be the most traumatic loss in Buffalo sports history. On the national (or even international) stage the Wide Right Super Bowl loss was probably the most memorable, and of course for many the run of Super Bowl losses considered cumulatively may be what defines Buffalo sports, but my sense of it is that bottom line Buffalo is a hockey town. That means that the 1999 No Goal Stanley Cup has to be a contender, but for people my age that 1975 loss could well have been the moment. O.J. Simpson was the most prominent local sports figure at the time, but the Bills were a middle-of-the-pack team for most of his tenure. The Sabres were still fresh on the scene, having entered the league in the 1970-71 season. They made the playoffs in 72-73, fell short the following season, then went on a run all the way to the sixth game of the final. Rick Martin was a big part of why they were suddenly so good, and I completely understand why the whole town is in mourning-- that Sabres team, and particularly that French Connection line would have been a thrilling thing to see day in, day out.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"If you pay close attention, you'll notice that the New York Times is more or less a newspaper about getting your kids into an Ivy League school."

Since posting a link to a discussion of "Harvards of the South" the other day I have been chortling to myself about the pretension of it all, now this spot-on observation from the Village Voice has driven it home. As a graduate of the Harvard of the Genesee Valley I suppose I shouldn't snark; maybe the solution is to just call all institutions of higher learning "Harvards" instead of "colleges". A. could tell people she is an alum of the Harvard of Commonwealth Avenue. EGS and CLA could tell people they attended the Harvard of the Pioneer Valley. EGA got her MA from the Harvard of Central Indiana, and CLA is applying to the Harvard of Wisconsin Catholic universities.

Using the highly sophisticated "Who do I know that went there or goes there" system I am getting killed, and perhaps that means a change is in order. Naturally daughters should not attend schools that are located in Confederate states. They should not go to Catholic colleges either. For NCAA hoops purposes this does not leave many good choices, but this is important.

The US News rankings are arbitrary and despicable, but like other things which are arbitrary and despicable they are also pervasive and persistent. I only care about my law school, which is ranked 84th. The New York schools that appear ahead of UB are #4 Columbia, #6 NYU, #13 Cornell, #30 Fordham (wha?), # 50 Yeshiva University (Cardozo) (wait a minute! How is that possible?), and #67 Brooklyn (you can't be serious). UB  is tied with Hofstra (oh please), and ranked in front of #100 Syracuse, #113 Albany, #117 Pace, #121 CUNY, and #135 New York Law. Touro's rank is "Not Published". I don't know what happened to St. Johns-- I didn't see it on the list.

Here's the reality, just in case anyone stumbles on this post while considering law school, or contemplating what law school to attend: unless you are accepted into a school in the top five or ten, go to the school that offers you the best value for the money. That doesn't mean the highest US News ranking relative to the cost of tuition. It means the school you can attend for the smallest coin. You wanna be a lawyer? Godspeed, but be aware that although it was once a profession where a few people made a lot of money and a lot of people made a decent middle class living those days are in the rear view mirror, and receding fast. Lawyers live a long time, experience is valuable, and there is a declining demand for the things that we do. Do the math: it isn't like there are likely to be a lot of openings any time soon. It is a tough job unless you love it, and even then it is a lot harder than you think. Don't put yourself under a mountain of debt unless you are sure this is what you want to do, which means don't do it just because you can't think of anything else.

Oh, and according to Malcolm Gladwell,  based on value for the dollar, LSAT scores and faculty publishing, the University at Buffalo Law School ranks 40th in the nation.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

I should mention that over the last weekend LCA and the rest of the City Honors thespians mounted their production of "South Pacific". Overall the show was pretty good, and LCA was remarkably good. As her father I could be expected to say that, but it was also true-- she approached professional quality I think, particularly in her singing and dancing, but also very nearly with her acting as well. She was obliged to play about ten years older than she is, with a cast that was likewise playing roles that were about ten to thirty years older, a challenging proposition. Other people thought she managed pretty well too, and it wasn't just other parents who were saying it to us: I overheard people I don't know commenting on the strength of her performance, and someone who identified himself as a musician who'd been with the Philharmonic for 30 years came up to her after the Friday show and told her she had a gift that he hoped she'd keep up with. So yeah, LCA is pretty good at this stuff, just like that little owl that wanted to sing-a, about the moon-a and the June-a and the spring-a.

She works hard at it. Given her dance experience it is no surprise that she moves well on stage, but she also has a notable presence. She works nearly as hard on her singing, and the results were impressive range and control. I suspect it was her singing that most impressed people, because she was in character and because she can really sell it. Most of the songs Nellie gets are comic, which is an LCA strength, but the reprise of Some Enchanted Evening was effective, and may have been what most of the audience liked best. It was a pleasure to watch her, and I'm glad that my mother was able to make it to Buffalo to see her.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Wall Street Journal had an amusing toy called "Blindfold Brackets" which assigned code names and colors to the teams in this year's Men's Tournament, then described the strengths and weaknesses of each team. The idea is to eliminate the bias that might otherwise color one's picks, although even a casual fan like me could pick out some of the teams based on the descriptions. I used that, and Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight Probabilities and then filtered the results through my own prejudices to make my picks.

A few notes: I like this St. Johns team, but the Johnnies are my team anyway. I think they can get past Gonzaga, and I think they can beat BYU. St Johns has injury issues, but BYU is sitting their best player for having sex, and they probably would have done the same thing if the kid had had a beer instead. No matter what you think of the match up the rooting interest is clear.

I'm picking Marquette over Syracuse because Charley Pierce went to Marquette, and CLA is thinking about it. I'm picking Mizzou over Cincinnati because EGS and her husband attend Mizzou, and because I've seen them play and thought they looked strong. I have them losing to a Free State next round, because I like to pick Free States over Slave States, and because UConn made the then EGA a respectable offer when she was looking at grad schools. I have Pitt going deep, even though they did not make an offer to the then EGA, because Pitt is really good, and I can't make all my picks based on her graduate school admissions-- that would be crazy.

Josh went to Vanderbilt, one of those, waddayacallem, Harvards of the South. I hate Harvards of the South, but the Commodores played well against a tough schedule, and have a nickname that is the same as one of my favorite soul bands. I've always thought it would be fun if they'd call their team captain the Lionel Richie, but they probably never will. Andrea went to BU, and LCA may, but it is a hockey school, not a hoops school. Also, they are playing Kansas, which wouldn't know which end of a hockey stick is the handle, but went 32-2 on the hardwood. Purdue was great this season, but it is also the traditional rival of Indiana, where EGS and Josh met. Notre Dame was also very strong, and has a roster stacked with four-year players. I hate Notre Dame, but a Notre Dame-Purdue matchup in the Sweet 16 has an old school appeal, and in my WSJ Blind Bracket I had the Irish in the Final Four. I couldn't bring myself to commit to South Bend that far when I knew what I was doing, but it makes sense that they'll go deep. I reckon the Jayhawks will take out the Boilermakers in the following round.

I like North Carolina over Long Island University because LIU is actually C.W. Post. C'mon-- C. W. Post against the Tarheels? Please. Charley Pierce notes that Texas lost to Colorado, who lost to (the actual) Harvard (Ivy League runners up! Fight Fiercely Harvard!) . I figure that's reason enough to favor Tennessee over Texas in the Round of Eight.

My Final Four is a fairly conventional Kansas vs. Pitt and Ohio vs. Tennessee. I think Ohio and Kansas will square off, and I've picked Kansas to cut down the nets at the end because I hate Ohio, and because Kansas is the Free State rival of Mizzou.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Todd Rundgren is coming to the Tralf this July, and I'm thinking I may finally be ready to take in a Todd show again, after something like a 30 year hiatus. If only I could be sure that he won't play Singring and the Glass Guitar.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Today is Pi Day!

Friday, March 11, 2011

"Antonin Scalia, approaching his 25th anniversary as a Supreme Court justice, has cast a long shadow but has accomplished surprisingly little. Nearly every time he has come close to achieving one of his jurisprudential goals, his colleagues have either hung back at the last minute or, feeling buyer’s remorse, retreated at the next opportunity." 

I'm inclined to go further. It is becoming increasingly apparent that Justice Scalia's "originalist" jurisprudence is an intellectually bankrupt, outcome-determinative approach-- even to the mopes that use it to justify their reactionary positions. Regrettably, there remains a substantial bloc on the court who are fine with this, since it is, after all, reductionist, reactionary and outcome determinative.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

To an Ethics CLE last night. In New York we are obliged to attend 24 hours of CLE every two years, and four hours of that has to be in Ethics. Non-lawyers think legal ethics must be fascinating stuff, and imagine that it's all "Law & Order" moral quandaries. It is not. Legal Ethics is about the stuff that other people can accuse you of that will get you in trouble with the state bar. Stealing from clients, poor record keeping, conflicts of interest-- that sort of thing. It is stomach turning stuff, even if you know it. In Robert A. Heinlein's "Starship Troopers" the narrator talks at one point about how part of boot camp training is instruction in the "thirty-one crash landings"- violations of the military code of justice that can result in the death penalty. Ethics CLE is like that, only worse, because you sit there racking your brain trying to think if you have somehow inadvertently screwed up. It isn't enough to be a good person- these are highly technical rules that are not particularly clearly articulated, and it is your ass if you screw it up. Usually I get my Ethics CLE in small bites as part of programs on other subjects, but this was three hours worth in one go, so I went for it. Next time I think I'll ask for a nice paper cut that I can pour lemon juice on.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Holy crow, the guy who argued Erie Railroad v. Tompkins just died. And he wasn't a billion years old-- Samuel Hazard Gillespie Jr., former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the first summer associate at Davis Polk, and a guy who sounds like he had a pretty interesting life generally, was 100.

Monday, March 07, 2011

At Lawyers, Guns and Money, a very interesting series on how to respond to suspected academic dishonesty. Professor Charli Carpenter, who teaches in the Political Science department at UMass Amherst, received an email request from a student at another institution, ostensibly asker her to comment on an article she had written, but which may actually have been the student's homework assignment. She was initially unsure as to what the appropriate response to this should be, but ultimately decided that she should advise the student's professor of this student's activity. I'd be interested in learning what comes of it, but that's not particularly important. What makes the discussion notable is the careful thought that was given to a fairly nuanced problem. My initial reaction, which is in the comments thread following her first post, was that this was a No Harm, No Foul sort of situation, but I have been persuaded that I was wrong. There is some room for doubt as to whether this student was cheating, but the suspicion of cheating is important enough to merit reporting.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

I doubt that I will ever use Twitter all that regularly, but I am past complaining that I don't get it. Twitter is to blogging as poetry is to essays: a concise medium that uses its concision as a means to deeper expression, and sometimes even wit.

It took following the right Twitter feed for a while for me to get it. That turned out to be @Discographies, which describes itself as a "definitive guide to an artist's body of work (studio albums only) in 140 characters". The format assumes a pretty deep awareness of the chronology of releases for each artist, so naturally a lot of these didn't connect with me, but consider the entry for The Clash: "1 thesis; 2 antithesis; 3 synthesis; 4 elephantiasis; 5 arteriosclerosis; 6 paralysis." Or how about this: "The Rolling Stones: 1-4 arousal; 4-6 tumescence ; 7-10 full engorgement; 11-14 satyriasis; 15-19 midlife crisis; 20-22 erectile dysfunction." One more: "The Decemberists: 1-3 "Wand'ring wide, we sailed our tales..." 4-5 "...o'er the topographic ocean." 6 "Safely home, we commenced to jangle." I mean, I am barely aware of The Decemberists, but that sums what I do know up pretty nicely.

The other thing that Twitter does is that it works in real time, which creates a sense of immediacy. During the Chicago mayoral election someone posted a series pretending to be Rahm Emanuel. I didn't follow @MayorEmanuel-- I didn't know about it until it was over-- but it was apparently a brilliantly hilarious magical realism take on a character who fully merits that treatment. As Mayor Emanuel fades into a time vortex (long story) he tweets what David Axelrod says: "'There must be something we can do...' But there's not. Only things that fucking suck never end: look at laundry, or dishes."

Most Twitterers will never rise to this kind of brilliance, but it is great that the medium exists for those who can.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Randy Cohen's Ethicist column in the Sunday NYTimes magazine was useless: usually wrong, and right for the wrong reasons when it managed to be right. The recipe columns have been dreadful, especially the "Cooking With Dexter" feature. I'll exempt Amanda Hesser's old recipe/new recipe pieces, I guess. I generally preferred the old recipes, but that's because I tend to use recipes as jumping off places anyway, and the new variations, while amusing, were usually less flexible. When Safire wrote the On Language column it was the only thing of its kind that was consistently entertaining and informative. I don't think it is true that he "invented" the form, but nobody else ever did it as well. It has been capably executed in the year since he died, and I will miss it. Hell, I still miss Russell Baker's Sunday Observer. So now all of these things are gone, and so is Frank Rich, probably the last consistently good reason to read the Sunday Times instead of just buying the damn thing to do the puzzle. What will become of the Sunday Times Magazine? Well, doubtless we can look forward to cutting edge stuff like last week's piece about Heather Armstrong, a blogger who was cutting edge five years ago. Of course there will be the regular feature on the kids that write concertos and speak five languages and perform surgery but are sweating out admission to the Ivy League school of their dreams. We'll still have articles about Israel to look forward to. There will be pieces about Newt Gingrich, I'm sure, and careful takedowns of whatever Democrat I happen to be trying to like.

The Sunday Times used to be one of my favorite things, but it seems bent on proving that it doesn't matter anymore. It is not impossible to produce a decent newspaper: the Times of London manages. If its politics weren't so abhorrent the Wall Street Journal could be read with pleasure. (I have to at least skim every page of the paper, so I can't pretend that the last two pages of the WSJ front section don't exist. It is galling.) Maybe I should try the Toronto Globe & Mail. Its big day is Saturday, so it isn't much good for news, and I'd have to start caring more about hockey, but maybe that's the answer.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Jane Russell has died. Among the many things to love about this clip is that the courtroom staff are clapping in time, which suggests that the courtroom also has a cowbell. Well, why not? More cowbell makes everything better, even breasts. It is regrettable that people my age probably first became aware of her because of those awful Playtex bra ads-- later we'd figure out what the fuss was about.
(UPDATE: Here is a fun clip with Hoagy Charmichael.)

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