Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Monday, October 31, 2011

To Houston Person yesterday at Bruce Eaton's Hunt Real Estate Art of Jazz series at the Albright-Knox, an indisputably authentic afternoon of straight-ahead tenor work. Person had been through town last summer at the Pine Grill Reunion but we were out of town and missed him. Looking around the room I'd say that the audiences for the two performances were probably pretty distinct. It would be interesting to compare set lists: Person has a substantial book of standards that probably come as easy to him as breathing, but yesterday's was marred for me, a bit, by two numbers. I never need to hear "The Way We Were" or "Sunny", but I will concede that both were salvaged by some nice piano work. Funny to realize that Person, who is indeed a venerable artist, cut his first side as a leader in 1966. What that tells us, of course, is that 1966 is longer ago than we think of it, but also that traditions in jazz follow their own tributaries. You could listen to Houston Person and think that Sonny Rollins never happened. It's not a knock-- he is just working a different branch of the jazz stream. It's cool to look around that auditorium and realize that everyone there is nodding and tapping in time, and it is even cooler when you see that the artist realizes that he is getting through that way.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Best Statistics question ever.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The final nominees:

Betty Smith
Dodie Smith
They Might Be Giants
Sarah Vowell
Joss Whedon

Further discussion will take place at the Big Pink HOF site.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The excitement mounts as I take the podium to announce today's nominees to the Big Pink HOF:

Russell and Lillian Hoban
Madelene Jankowski
Norton Juster
C.S. Lewis
Scott Oakley
Keith Richards
Ruth Reichel

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Congratulations to today's seven nominees to the Big Pink HOF:

Carol Christ
Bob Dylan
Ella Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Jonathan Safran Foer
Ira Glass
Darlene Gullia
Dashiell Hammett

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Nominations for what is provisionally being called the Big Pink Hall of Fame have all been received and are now closed. In order to heighten the excitement we will release seven names a day, here and at the **NEW** Big Pink HOF website.

As sharp-eyed readers will surmise, there was nomination overlap, which is why each elector submitted seven names. The first seven are:

L. Frank Baum
Joel Becktell
The Beatles
Chuck Berry
Walter R. Brooks
Julia Child
Bing Crosby
Miles Davis

Friday, October 21, 2011

Over dinner last night (spaghetti squash with apples and sausage, very nice) we decided to put the notion of a family Hall of Fame into action, and devised some rules. For the first class each member of the Big Pink household has been invited to submit up to five names. Nominations are anonymous. In the event of duplicate submissions the electors will be invited to each submit two additional candidates, for a total of seven each. All nominees are to be real people-- no fictional characters. The nominees may be public figures, or they may be private people who are known to us and are deemed sufficiently influential to merit inclusion. Collective candidates are permitted-- if a nominee collaborated with others, as with, for example, a band or, or a sports team, or an author/illustrator team, that collective will be counted as a single nomination.

The names submitted will be assembled on a single, alphabetized ballot. The formal vote shall take place over dinner on Boxing Day. Australian Rules shall apply to voting. Candidates who do not receive at least 2 votes shall be ineligible for future consideration; Candidates must receive at least 75% of the votes cast to be inducted. Electors may vote for all, none, or as many candidates that appear on the ballot as they so choose.

I'll post the names of the nominees when they are all in. Debate, horse trading and cajolery are encouraged, either in the Comments here, or by email.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'm mad at baseball, which is forcing me to choose between St. Louis and Texas. After due deliberation I'm going with the Cards but I'm not happy about it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Yesterday was Chuck Berry's birthday, and I allowed it to pass without comment. Happy 85th Chuck! There are times when I question whether America has been worth it all, but then I remember cats like you. (There must be something about mid-October-- two days ago marked the 50th anniversaty of first meeting of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.)

Last night, returning home from David Sedaris we were talking about who might be considered for our family's private Hall of Fame. Sedaris would be included, as would Bob Dylan, Wes Anderson, Norton Juster, Edward Eager, and Ira Glass. Chuck is on the list, of course. Miles, Monk. We got off track when it got to religious figures. I don't want any popes, but CLA says JPII goes on the list. I don't want any clerics at all, but A. wants this incarnation of the Dalai Lama. (If you have one Dalai Lama, don't you have to have them all?)

Outside Counsel has long maintained a list of Patron Saints, but although there is overlap the two are not co-extensive. Justice Holmes, Ambrose Bierce, and Robert Christgau are unlikely to make the larger family list. Neither will Murray Kempton or, sadly, Norman Mailer.

I love this part of the NFL season. Every week is a series of questions, and the questions get more interesting as the data accumulates. Right now the question for everyone amounts to, "Are we moving towards the mean?" The Bills were a surprise, but now everybody is 4-2, and we are left to wonder, did they get to 4-2 by being good, or by beating up on lousy teams?

Oakland looks legit-- they are 4-2 also, with wins against the Jets, Denver, Houston and Cleveland. You can't really say that any of those are high octane opponents, and one of their losses was to New England.

Kansas City is 3-2. The two wins came against the Vikings and the Colts. The Chiefs have lost to two legit teams, the Lions and the Bolts. This is the sort of team good teams are supposed to beat, even though we didn't realize it on opening day.

I thought that was the kind of team the Bengals were, but they are 4-2 as well. I'd say the win against the Bills is their most impressive credential to date.

The New England win speaks for itself.

The Eagles win was nice, but not unexpected. They were winless coming in, they are 2-4 now, and they look like they are in complete disarray.

The Giants are 4-2. They are an ugly 4-2, having beaten the Rams, the Eagles and Arizona in addition to the Bills.

Going just on who's beaten who I'd have to say that the Bills are a better 4-2 than most, but they need to start winning on the road, and they need to learn how to close. The bye comes at a good time, and Washington comes after that, followed by a trip to visit the Jets. Good teams beat the 'Skins and the Jets. Teams that have plans for the post season load up for games like that. Who are the Bills? For the first time in a long time it's an interesting question.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A word to the wise: mail-in registration for the Turkey Trot closes October 31, on-line registration closes on November 19th, and the race is capped at 12,500. CLA and I are signed up. You should be too.

Monday, October 17, 2011

For some reason I've been watching John Carpenter movies lately. I was never interested in his work before, and as a general rule avoid the horror genre-- it, uh, lacks subtlety as a rule, and seems like a sort of Grand Guignol gross-out spectacle to make rather obvious social points. Carpenter, however, is better than that, or at least truer to the tradition, and is also a remarkably solid technical filmmaker. Over the weekend, while A and CLA were out at a polka party I watched "They Live" and found myself marveling over how well it fits into our Occupy Wall Street moment. Check out Jonathan Lethem's thoughts on it, or better yet watch it. “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, rocking the most amazing mullet I have ever seen, discovers that LA has been taken over by a race of aliens who have numbed the human population into a state of passivity through the use of subliminal images. The gimmick-- the MacGuffin, if you will, is that the true appearance of the aliens and the world is revealed when Piper puts on a pair of special sunglasses. The shades, called "Hoffman lenses" turn the world into a black-and-white tableaux, where billboards advertising Caribbean vacations are revealed to actually say "OBEY", and currency bears the words, "THIS IS YOUR GOD". Piper is an unemployed worker who has come to town seeking work; he finds refuge in a tent city that looks like the tent cities OWS protesters are setting up all over the country. I love the idea of BW revealing the truth-- it is sort of the cinematic version of blank verse vs. prose. Magic spectacles also have an esteemed place in genre fiction-- the green-tinted glasses that the Wizard requires everyone entering Oz to wear, Mrs. Who's glasses in "A Wrinkle in Time"....

One of the things that is notable about the movie is that it keeps setting up cliched moments that turn out differently than we expect them to. Surprise is a horror staple, but Carpenter goes it one better-- the movie is frightening, not startling. It keeps us off balance by avoiding genre cliches. Carpenter doesn't avoid cliche altogether-- there is a long fight scene (apparently he claims it is the longest in movie history) which seems to be there as much to take advantage of Piper's principle calling as anything else.

It is an effective piece of work, a Reagan-era bit of social commentary disguised as pop culture, and actually more effective as commentary today than it ever was.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Per Joe Posnanski:
[A]fter every victory, the Chicago Cubs raise a W flag to commemorate the win. This tradition began so that people passing by on the El train would know that the Cubbies had won.

What you may not know -- what I didn't know, sadly, until Cubs announcer Len Kasper filled me in -- is that the Cubs actually raise an L flag to commemorate losses. Every loss. They do this for the same sensible reason, to let people on the trains know the Cubs lost.

I think that is just terrific.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

If The Avengers is as good as this trailer it'll be pretty great.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Jonathan Lethem on Norman Mailer.
"Challenged once by a friend to name a single immortal literary character from postwar fiction — someone to rival Sherlock Holmes or Madame Bovary in terms of bleed-through to popular consciousness — I blurted out “Norman Mailer!” I was halfway serious. Mailer, running hard against his limits at inventing a new form of novel as large as his ambition or claims, invented, by means of Advertisements for Myself and the third-person narrator of his journalistic books, by his television appearances, wife-stabbing, and so forth, the character of the public Mailer instead — and triumphed."

Friday, October 07, 2011

Vegas odds are like Vegas point spreads-- neither has much to do with the actual strengths and weaknesses of a team, they just track where the money is going. I suppose there is some validity to the notion of the wisdom of crowds in this, but by the same token we are talking about people who are betting against the house on sporting events. The technical term for such folk is "chumps", or sometimes "marks". Even so, heading into this weekend's exciting NFL action it is interesting to note that the Vegas lines on who will win the Super Bowl have shifted substantially since the season opened. For example, the Bills opened at 200-1 and are currently 40-1. (The longest odds paid out on Super Bowl winners were the 1999 St. Louis Rams, who were 300-1 to open the season, and the 2001 New England Patriots, who were 450-1 entering Week 5 with a 1-3 record.) The Philadelphia Eagles opened at 6-1 and are currently 35-1. What does this mean? Probably nothing. Still, Sunday's game is an interesting matter to contemplate. The Eagles have under-achieved, and are at the point where a win could salvage the season. The Bills have over-achieved like crazy, and a win would validate them as serious contenders. It has been quite some time since I've gone into a weekend planing to devote a slice of my Sunday to watching a Bills game, but that's my intention this week.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs dead, Tomas Tranströmer wins the Nobel Prize. What next?

Watching The Verdict with my class last night I learned that most of them have never played pinball, and none of them knew what a Polaroid SX-70 camera was. "The picture comes out of it?" one said, impressed by the retro-cool of what was once the cutting edge technology for the plaintiff's bar.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

WNED had a public meeting last night to allow the public to comment on future programming on the its stations-- WNED-FM, WNED-AM, and WBFO. On the podium were Don Boswell, the CEO of WNED, the present station manager from WBFO, Mark Vogelzang, the present station manager from WBFO, and a representive from UB whose name presently escapes me. Joseph A. Brennan, UB’s associate vice president for communications. Turnout was not overwhelming, and although there were people there with different things to say, the overwhelming sentiment seemed to be that the Blues programing on WBFO is something that the people present want to see retained.

I doubt that it will be. In fact, although Mr. Boswell stopped short of saying it in so many words, what is likely to happen is that WBFO will become the FM outlet for the programing that is presently being carried by WNED-AM. WNED-FM is retaining its format-- Boswell was clear on that. The whole thing is a pity, as I have said before. WBFO is an important part of the history and tradition of public radio, and public radio has its roots in educational broadcasting, particularly the liberal arts. By abandoning the station the University at Buffalo is abandoning a significant and important part of its role in the community. Say what you will about Bill Greiner's time as president of the university, Greiner understood radio, and believed that part of the University's mission was to serve an educational role to the community at large. When Jennifer Roth left WBFO the GM seat was filled by a caretaker, then Greiner stepped down and was replaced by a guy with his eye on the bottom line who didn't have the same ties to the community. President Simpson flew home to LA every week, and it is no surprise that under his leadership UB asked,"what are we doing with a radio station?" instead of, "how can we use this great tool better?".

I get that times are tight. I understand why UB feels like it should be focusing more on other things-- but I disagree strongly with this move, and I believe that Western New York will suffer culturally with this move. Instead of jazz and blues we are going to be getting more Car Talk, because that's how Don Boswell thinks programing decisions get made-- with a view to what is the least expensive, with the greatest return. In part this is because Don Boswell is a Public Television guy. Whenever public television and public radio sit down at the table you can count on it being a bacon and eggs breakfast.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Favorites for the Nobel Lit prize, according to Ladbrokes: Adonis, the Syrian poet, at 4/1, Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer at 7/1 and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami at 8/1. There has been a surge in punters wanting some Bob Dylan action: the Bard of Hibbing is currently 10/1. I'd be down with Murakami, but I think every year that passes without recognition for Philip Roth is another year where the Academy gets it wrong.

UPDATE: in the time it took to write this Dylan has gone to 8/1. If I were smarter than I am I'd be looking for an economist and playing an exacta.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

I still think of them as an American League team, but the Brewers are my NL guys for as long as they last.

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