Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I have a standing offer with my undergraduates: if they submit a draft of their final papers a week early I will review and make suggestions. This offer is without prejudice-- I will not grade the drafts, and the draft will not color their subsequent grade. It sounds like it would be a lot of extra work for me, but it really isn't-- I have never had a student take me up on it. Never, ever. I just had a student submit a paper, and since it was early I marked it up and renewed my offer. The reply came today: "If it is better than my midterm then I will take my grade on this."

There are, I think, several things going on here. Certainly there is a  fair amount of being busy with other classes. I also think there is some plain laziness. "I'm done with this, now I'm moving on," enters into it as well. The real issue, however, is a misunderstanding of the relationship that should exist between teachers and students. They think I am somehow adverse to them, or at best a sort of neutral-- a referee who is charged with instructing them on the rules, then quizzing them on those rules before releasing them into what they insist on calling The Real World. Of course, a university classroom does not exist in an alternate reality: I reside in the real world, and the skills I am attempting to impart are genuine real world skills, but they don't see it that way. In fact, my status as a lawyer-- a real world authority figure in their minds--  is one of the things that attracts them to my classes. I am no shadowy academician, I am involved with the gears and levers of actual work. My students, poor little snowflakes, sincerely believe that they are in school to gain a credential, and that faculty are there to provide them with a series of tasks, the way that Greek gods or kings with beautiful daughters test people to determine their worthiness. (I should note here that my law students do not share this attitude. They are there to learn the stuff, and in general realize that I'm not there to make life difficult.) It's too bad, really. A lot of what I am trying to do is to get the students to think critically, and in order to do that I try to help them with their writing. I can show them things, but until they can clearly articulate what they observe themselves they are going to be stuck, and I can't unstick them if they are going to shrug and say, "Meh, I'll just take the grade, thanks." It is like making a fire with wet wood. Some of them get it, some of them catch on eventually, and some never will. But so far none of them have ever taken me up on what I think is a pretty decent offer, and I wish they would.

UPDATE: A friend writes, "Students don't always hear help coming at them, even it is attached to a siren."

Friday, April 26, 2013

At the risk of turning this space into a digest of obituaries Outside Counsel notes with regret that Larry Felser has died. When I moved to Western New York I was more of a baseball guy than a football guy, so I didn't appreciate Felser as much as I should have right off. In a relatively short period I came to realize that he was one of the best football writers I'd ever encountered,  and that, best of all, he was a true mavin on the old AFL, a fascinating and often overlooked subject.  Writers like Felser are what made me the newspaper junkie that I am, and the fact that the herd is thinning is an important part of why newspapers are becoming obsolete. Felser could be depended upon to deliver an insight that nobody else would, and he did it gracefully and with authority. When he stopped writing for the Buffalo News last year I missed him, and now I will miss hi

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

E.L. Konigsburg has died. A potential candidate  for the Big Pink Hall of Fame, I'd say, and I'm sorry we didn't think to honor her before her demise. I hope her life was as pleasing as her stories. I suspect it probably was.

Amusing piece at Slate about the songs the Beatles gave away. It's not complete: no Badfinger, for example, but the Spotify playlist is illuminating. Beatles songs are finite, so you'd think that a cache of  Lennon-McCartney numbers like this would be a treasure trove. In fact what turns out to be the most notable thing about these is how ordinary they seem. Did the lads keep the best for themselves?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The other day CLA called with news that a Geneseo professor that she'd liked was giving a talk this coming Monday called "Against 'Sexual' 'Assault' 'Awareness'". Today Jezebel provides details. I am not inclined to delve into the scholarship which Theodore Everett has produced*, but as a social thinker he impresses me as kind of an asshole. Actually, he seems to me as a particular kind of asshole, the kind who builds elaborate strawmen, then tears them down in the belief that in so doing he has established his case. Because he is obviously a smart guy this probably fools some people, but it irritates me, and not just because he's making my alma mater look bad. I'm all for academic freedom, and that means that I absolutely defend Professor Everett's right to be an asshole. What I am opposed to is the kind of intellectual slight of hand that he seems to like to engage in. I've had a look at the study about campus sexual violence that his talk is apparently intended to rebut, and as someone who has litigated cases involving campus sexual assault I find nothing in its methodologies or its conclusions that is inconsistent with my observations. This cat seems like a crackpot, and like someone who is bad at punctuation.

(I had a look at what his students have to say on RateMyProfessor, and he seems popular. So there's that.)

* I'd be interested in Mrs. Smart's take on his paper on inductive reasoning.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The entire city of Boston is shut down while the cops look for a 19 year old. Here's the challenge: when they find him-- and they will find him-- will the American justice system process him, or will we find some pretext to ship him to Gitmo?

Around the corner from our house is a big ol' Presbyterian church that is being converted into condos.
Its congregation has dwindled to a handful, but the structure is an attractive one, and it houses a day care center, and a soup kitchen, and the winter farmer's market. The local Scouts have held their meetings there for years, in the log cabin in the basement.

I'm glad it is being saved, even if it won't be hidden away in the church any more. I'm also tickled that the New York Times says we live in "a coveted neighborhood in the heart of the city." that's how I feel about it, and it is pleasing to be validated in the paper of record.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

It occurs to me-- sadly not for the first time-- that the things we think of as good news frequently become less and less like what good news used to be like when we were younger. "It's operable." "It's only stage 2." "They say if you have to have it, this is the kind to have."

And yet, and yet... And yet this is good news of a kind. The whiff of hospital corridors-- and worse-- notwithstanding, there is a real sense in which sharing this news brings us together, and makes each of us stronger, and makes us cherish our time even more.

I wish I were better at talking myself into that.

UPDATE: No, not me. I'm fine right now.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A friend and I engaged in a Facebook exchange about the forthcoming release of a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young live album from 1974. I was... scornful, and the fact that he was so passionate in his defense led me to reconsider the positions I have staked out earlier. Neil Young, it should go without saying, is exempt from this discussion. His body of work is second only, perhaps, to Bob Dylan's, "Southern Man" and a few other, similar clinkers notwithstanding. Back when I was using a different commenting system someone who knew the fellas back in the Laurel Canyon days posted a remark to the effect that Graham Nash was a gentleman, and I'll accept that (even though he is responsible for the song about the two cats in the yard and the most pretentious piece of pedagogy ever committed to verse) That leaves Stephen Stills and David Crosby. I wore out my copy of Four Way Street long ago, and I wore out two copies of Stills' first solo side; the one with "Black Queen" on it. But c'mon. Stills was effectively finished after that (when was the last time you played "Manassas"?). Crosby is, if anything, an even more egregious example of lumpenproletariat hippiedom.

Even so, we try to be even handed at Outside Counsel, so I went back and revisited Stills' first solo album. I find that it holds up. We'd have called it "a good guitar album" then, and why not? It is, as far as I am aware, the only side that features the title artist jamming, on separate tracks, with both Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, and if Clapton and Hendrix are a bit buried in the mix, well, who's record was it after all? Stills was, at that point, a powerful player, and an exciting singer. You might say that his songwriting was already on a downward curve, but I'm not so sure. Stills always over-relied on "dig it" and similar hippie tropisms in his song writing, even in his Buffalo Springfield days, but the emotion still came through.

I checked Christgau's evaluation and found that he gave the record a C+. This to me is harsh, but worse was what he had to say about Stephen Stills 2:  "Stills has always come on as the ultimate rich hippie--arrogant, self-pitying, sexist, shallow. Unfortunately, he's never quite fulfilled this artistic potential, but now he's approaching his true level. Flashes of brilliant ease remain--the single, "Marianne," is very nice, especially if you don't listen too hard to the lyrics--but there's also a lot of stuff on order of an all-male chorus with jazzy horns singing "It's disgusting" in perfect tuneful unison, and straight, I swear." I'd forgotten "Ecology Song"-- back then I must have mainly played the side with "Change Partners".

Stills' fall is an impressive thing to contemplate. The world is full of one-offs, but he really was good enough over a brief period to have been a much stronger contender for greatness than he turned out to be. I suppose, from a critical perspective, the key is to value the worthwhile material.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

As I write this A is driving to Boston for a conference. That's how we win: people do what they do, and they don't let the evil or the insane stop them.

Monday, April 15, 2013

To the Edible Books event at the Western New York Book Arts Center yesterday, where we saw these:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Further to my musings on Eric Clapton's No Reason to Cry, sort of: out of nowhere I had the urge to hear what Ronnie Wood's solo stuff sounds like. I'd never had the opportunity to hear I've Got My Own Album To Do , and now I'm going to hunt it up, because Spotify has Gimme Some Neck and it sounds like the really good Keith Richards solo project that we will never have. The Clapton connection is Dylan, of course: at around the same time ol' Bob gave E.C. the song about the sandwich he gave Ronnie a rocker called "Seven Days". We got Dylan's version on Bootleg Series Vol.1-3, and it's fine, but nobody ever asked, "Why hasn't this been on an album before?" Ronnie's version, on the other had, is terrific, a Stones style rocker that I wish I'd known about years ago.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

You cannot keep LCA off the stage, nor should you.

A very modest sort of fame indeed, but nevertheless a nice little thrill: I'm all over today's post at Expecting Rain, the essential Dylan site. Greil Marcus, here's your hat.

Obviously I'm not going to go to this, but it is the sort of thing I'd like to think I'd be doing if I were a full-time academic. One of the frustrations of the work we do on the NYSBA Committee on the  Civil Practice Law and Rules (spelled out because NYSBA CPLR Committee would be incoherent) is that although there is a great deal of data out there we mostly work on the basis of anecdotal information. The Office of Court Administration has the data, but based on their work product they could use some help parsing it.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher dead. Good riddance to bad fooking rubbish, say I. As evil as Dick Cheney. She was so horrible she made Ronald Reagan look decent-- although that was more because of Ronnie's affability; on a policy level they were peers. Tramp the dirt down.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

To Bob Dylan last night at UB's Alumni Arena. Set list first:

Things Have Changed
Love Sick (Time Out Of Mind)
High Water (For Charley Patton) (Love and Theft)
Soon After Midnight(Tempest)
Early Roman Kings (Tempest)
Tangled Up In Blue (Blood on the Tracks)
Pay In Blood (Tempest)
Visions of Johanna (Blonde on Blonde)
Spirit On The Water (Modern Times)
Blind Willie McTell
Beyond Here Lies Nothin' (Together Through Life)
What Good Am I (Oh Mercy)
Thunder On The Mountain (Modern Times)
Scarlet Town (Tempest)
Highway 61 Revisited (Highway 61 Revisited)
Ballad of A Thin Man (Highway 61 Revisited)

I was hoping that he would concentrate on more recent material, and was not disappointed: four songs from Tempest, two from Modern Times, one each from Together Through Life and Love and Theft. For the older fans, songs from Blood on the Tracks, Highway 61 (two songs! Stop complaining hippies!) and one from Blonde on Blonde. With a catalog like Dylan's that's a reasonable retrospective. 

Dylan looked great, and seemed to be enjoying himself. When he broke out the harmonica for the first time on Spirit On The Water a cheer went up from the crowd, he looked out, and almost, I think, smiled. You could say he was in good voice-- certainly he sounded strong. The band was excellent, and were allowed to stretch out some, particularly on Thunder On The Mountain and Highway 61. 

This was A's first time seeing Dylan. She enjoyed it, but also said that it felt impersonal. Bob doesn't talk between songs, even to introduce the band, and of course she's right-- it is nice when there is some banter. I am less fazed by this: Dylan has said that he is there to play, and that's what he does. He is not there to see us-- we are there to see him. As President Obama noted:
Here’s what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you’d expect he would be. He wouldn’t come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn’t want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn’t show up to that. He came in and played “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage… comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves… That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That’s how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don’t want him to be all cheesin’ and grinnin’ with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise.
On the other hand, A's thoughts on the subject certainly make a kind of personal sense. When Theme
Time Radio was airing regularly she used to say, "There are days when Bob Dylan's voice is the sound I hear the most." Theme Time Radio was, as they say, Another Side of Bob Dylan-- personal, smart, funny-- the Bob Dylan that you'd want to take a road trip with. He opened up on his show in a unique way, and gave us a glimpse of what he might be like to talk to. I have to imagine that being Bob Dylan is a complicated thing, and a taxing thing. In a way he's a good example of why one should be careful about wishing for things: he came to New York to become famous, and did he ever. I don't doubt for a minute that he never asked to be the Voice of a Generation, and over the years he has struggled with his celebrity. In the past he'd simply disappear for long stretches. He says that he made Self Portrait terrible on purpose, so that people would leave him alone. (I don't believe that, because I think Dylan is the embodiment of the unreliable narrator-- he's always either joking or flat-out lying, but there is always a germ of truth in everything he says.) His current compromise with icon status is to work consistently, and tour incessantly. Performance has become his shield. I hope it keeps working for him, because on the strength of this show I'll make a point of seeing him again.

We were on the floor in front of the stage, with a good view. I'm not one for concerts in venues like this as a rule, but I can't complain about the sound or the sightlines. I can, however, bitch about the cattle-car treatment at the gate: a gigantic, slow moving line that led to metal detectors. That's messed up. We missed the opening act, Dawes, who I'd have liked to have seen.
The first leg of this tour runs through May 5. If he is coming near, go.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Oh damn. Carmine Infanto has died. His Flash (and the Elongated Man) were two of my favorites.It isn't particularly hip to admit an affection for the DC books of this period: at the time Marvel was producing books that were more angst-y, and that influence has pretty much taken over the form.

We did Anatomy of a Murder in Lawyers in Movies the other night. It's funny how it goes: Sometimes the students bounce right off it, and sometimes they totally get it. This class gets it, which makes me happy: there is a great deal to like about it. I am tempted to move it up in the rotation, to show it earlier in the semester, but I probably won't; the problem the students seem to have-- other than the fact that it is black and white-- is that it takes a little while for the story to reach a full boil. That's not a problem with the movie-- Preminger builds it up beautifully. It is a problem with the way movies are presently constructed, which has conditioned viewers to expect episodes of dynamic action from the moment the film starts. Character and plot development seem mostly to take place in between action or comic episodes, and this makes AoaM hard to follow for people who aren't used to a different tempo. I love the courtroom scenes in it: Jimmy Stewart's Paul Biegler does a fine job of home-boying George C. Scott's Claude Dancer, and Scott is magnificent. In the scene pictured Dancer is cross-examining the smoking hot Lee Remick with the kind of snarling intensity that we all think our cross is like and I could watch it again and again.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Everyone is going to be writing about Roger Ebert, and that's fine. His writing was perceptive and I enjoyed reading his stuff. The whole "battle" idea of cancer, or illness in general has always seemed to me to be a very bad way to describe what happens to people. In contrast to that Ebert lived with his disease the way I'd hope I would. He wrote meaningfully about it, and he continued to do the work he loved. A class act, who certainly suffered but never complained. I hope it went easy for him.

All that said, I'm afraid that the death of Stan Issacs is likely to be over looked, and that would be a shame. Isaacs was the sportswriter for Newsday that covered the Mets, and he was terrific. It is fair to say that reading his stuff was an important reason I still read newspapers, and have always loved sports.

You know, a decent film based on The Great Gatsby is theoretically possible, but in order to accomplish it I think the filmmaker would have to commit to a personal vision of the material. It won't happen if Fitzgerald's writing is what you love about the novel. In that connection, Pitchfork reports:
The Great Gatsby soundtrack roster is packed: In addition to the previously-mentioned Beyoncé and André 3000 cover of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black", the Jay-Z-orchestrated tracklist includes new, original songs by Jay himself, the xx, and Florence and the Machine. There's also the Jack White cover of U2's "Love Is Blindness" (previously featured in the movie's first trailer), and a Bryan Ferry cover of Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love".
You know what? That might work. It is bound to work better than a soundtrack full of 1920's white person jazz. With all due respect (a phrase that always means, "Duck!") 1920's popular music was -- evolving. Quite a bit of it was excellent, particularly when Duke Ellington was involved, but unless one is a student of it the "jazz" in The Jazz Age is a bit of an acquired taste. Gatsby shouldn't be a languorous experience: it is a surprisingly fast-paced tale full of colorful characters that takes place over a short, party filled summer. Say what you will about the musicians listed above, all of them would appreciate Nick Carraway's  sense of style. The problem with Jack Clayton's 1974 run at Gatsby, filmed through gauze and starring mannequins made up to look like Robert Redford and Mia Farrow was that Clayton was trying to re-create the novel, instead of trying to tell the story. It didn't help that he really didn't seem to understand the story, but the end result amounted to a sort of fashion show with no real plot or character development at all. This Gatsby deserves credit out of the box for taking on a difficult work, and although it may well be dreadful, and although there is a good likelihood that it will bomb, I'm prepared to give it a chance.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Wow, this is ugly. And my sidebar has been trashed. Thanks, Blogger!
(UPDATE: Fixed it. )

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

I kind of like these. I wonder if I could carry them off? The pink soled ones would match the house, but that might be too much. I guess the real issue would be what to wear them with. Khakis would work, of course, but would seersucker? It ought to....

Monday, April 01, 2013

It seems like there was a point in my life when every record I bought was produced by Phil Ramone. Looking at the list what jumps out is how beautifully recorded everyone he worked with was.

(UPDATE: Good interview here. NYTimes Obit)

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