Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We are going to have to wait for the album of standards, but what we are getting instead is pretty exciting: the "Complete" Basement Tapes. Finally we will be able to read Greil Marcus' Invisible Republic and listen to the music he's writing about. I doubt that I will understand Invisible Republic any better, but that's my problem. People who have heard all of these songs-- who, for all I know may just be Greil Marcus*, say that it is mostly all pretty great, and  essential. It's funny that some of the immediate response seems to be mild complaining that this edition of the Bootleg Series is not the unreleased Blood on the Tracks stuff; most of that has seen official release here and there already.

* And Jann Wenner, too. When The Basement Tapes was originally released in 1975 it hit number 7 on the Billboard chart. Dylan expressed surprise, since the material had been widely bootlegged on the Great White Wonder: "I thought everybody already had those songs."

Monday, August 25, 2014

Funny about Burger King: it seems to exist as much as a sort of a corporate investment vehicle as it does as a hamburger chain. This latest thing-- merging with Tim Horton's and moving to Canada-- is just one more complex maneuver, and it makes me wonder if that's not why it's never a place I feel like getting a burger. I guess the first Burger King I ate at was when the company was owned by Pillsbury. That would have been in the late 60's, and by that time it was already on its third set of owners. Pilsbury was purchased by Grand Metropolitan, which was then merged with Guinness in 1997, which sold it three years later to TPG Capital. Apparently Bain Capital was or was supposed to be part of that deal. TPG sold it to 3G Capital, which took it private after it was acquired in 2010. What I guess this means is if a restaurant is seen more often in the Transactions section of the Wall Street Journal than in the food section of local newspapers the chances are the burgers in that restaurant are going to taste like the Transactions section of the Wall Street Journal. Or, in the case of Burger King, like the burnt Transactions section of the Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What are the criteria for my Personal Hit Single of The Summer? Well, I suppose they are somewhat amorphous. Rule #1: When it comes on the car radio you either turn it up (if you are riding shotgun) or yell, "Turn that up!" (if you are driving, or in the back). I'm flexible about whether it has to be an actual summer of that summer release-- but it should be new to me for the summer it is supposed to be representing. Meghan Trainer's "All About That Bass" has been working for me whenever I've heard it, and that has been happening with increasing frequency.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I am generally suspicious of this sort of project: Bob Dylan's publisher approached T-Bone Burnett with a box of Bob Dylan lyrics from 1967 and asked if he was interested in assembling an album from them. Mermaid Avenue was okay-- Billy Bragg and Wilco's stab at doing something similar with a box of Woody Guthrie lyrics-- and there are other, similar projects, but still. Besides, I like Bob Dylan's melodies as much as I like the lyrics-- maybe more. Also, when did Marcus Mumford become a go-to guy? I mean, we can assume Burnett's good faith and competence, but a couple of hit songs with a banjo in them isn't the same as a credential in my book. Elvis Costello I'm okay with, and I've liked Rhiannon Giddens since we went to the Carolina Chocolate Drops show and she chewed out the guy who was yelling for "Cornbread and Buttermilk". That's the New Minstrelsy, right there, the performer telling the audience, "Yeah, yeah-- we're going to stick to our set list, so STFU."It isn't just music where projects like this bother me: Robert B. Parker respected Raymond Chandler, but Poodle Springs, Parker's attempt at finishing an unfinished Chandler novel had all its seams showing, and was a horrible, lurching monster. Or, in film, have a look at A.I., Steven Speilberg's movie from a Stanley Kubrick project. I suppose the work is the point, and the work deserves to be judged on its merits in every instance, but if that's the case than why does the artistic provenance of these projects seem to be at the center of their reason for being?

So that's where I'm coming from on this, and I've got to say that I just played the attached little number three times straight through, and really like it. Is it new old Bob Dylan music? Couldn't tell you, but it's a pretty good song.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Nobody was really taking  Rick Perry  seriously, were they? A Texas governor stupider than Bush?

Friday, August 15, 2014

My listening took an odd turn this week: inspired by this video, recommended by Captain X, I started out listening to a bunch of Jeff Beck. Here's the core problem with Jeff Beck albums: everything that's not Jeff Beck. (I except from this both Truth and Beck-ola, for reasons to be discussed infra). This problem is why Blow by Blow and Wired are great, and Jeff Beck: Live with the Jan Hammer Group is not great, notwithstanding the fact that the latter draws from the former for nearly all of its material. If I wanted a Jan Hammer album I'd file my own commitment papers and take a nice Bellevue vacation. Thinking about Jeff Beck always makes me think about the path not taken. Jeff split the Yardbirds because he didn't care for the more pop direction the band was taking. (That's one version anyway.) He went on to record the two aforesaid really good sets of hard English blooze which feature his guitar to good advantage, and Rod Stewart to excellent advantage. Jimmy Paige carried on with the Yardbirds, but what was originally going to be called "The New Yardbirds" become something else altogether. Meanwhile, Steve Marriott, apparently tiring of the pop direction the Small Faces were moving in,  rang up Peter Frampton and formed Humble Pie. In retrospect Peter Frampton might seem like an odd choice to butch things up, but Humble Pie was absolutely a departure from the blues based rock that most English bands had been working from up to that point. Everyone seemed to be looking for a heavier sound, but it seems to me that only Paige and Led Zeppelin actually found what they were after, something beyond the blues. If you took any of the constituent pieces from any of these bands and shuffled the tiles I wonder what you would have come up with? What would Rod Stewart have sounded like fronting Zep? What if Beck had found John Bonham first? 

Notably missing in this account is the other Yardbirds guy, Eric Clapton, and as I think about the departure rock made from the blues and towards "hard rock" in the period encompassing roughly 1968-1972 it seems to me that the reason Clapton avoided that particular rabbit hole is that he'd already been down it, with Cream....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Used to be that the delis in Penn Station would have big tubs filled with ice and tall cans of beer, including Ballantine Pale Ale. I can't recall how much they were-- $2 bucks maybe?-- but you'd grab a can out of the tub, and hand the guy your beer and your money. He'd drop the can into a paper bag, and you'd hustle off to catch your train. You barely had to break your stride as you moved from the A train to the LIRR platform, and when you got on the train, out of the steambath of Penn Station you'd crack open your book, and pop open your icy cold Ballantine and your day was instantly improved. It was a lot hoppier than anything else I can recall back then, and delicious. I wonder if it will still seem that way? I will certainly be open to trying.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Missouri Goddamn.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Without Lauren Bacall in it, the world seems less sexy.

One more:

The sad, horrible thing about Robin Williams killing himself is that even knowing that he would be grieved by millions wouldn't have changed anything for him.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

The release of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young live 1974 set has meant that I've been hearing a lot of CSNY lately. Man, they were big back in the day, weren't they? And they were really designed for maximum commercial success, right from the get-go. The story is that the former Byrd and the former Buffalo Springfield decided that the band would have their names  so that nobody else could exploit their brand. The former Hollie, I suppose, amiably went along. The discography is illuminating: Crosby, Stills & Nash was released in 1969, Deju Vu appeared in 1970 followed by Stephen Stills and If I Could Only Remember My Name. 1971 brought Songs for Beginners, Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere and After the Goldrush, and then it was time to cash in with a live double, Four Way Street. Man, I wore my copy of Four Way Street smooth. After that the guys went their separate ways for a while, presumably because Crosby was hogging all the good drugs. In 1974, following Stephen Stills 2 (that's the one with "Change Partners" and an all-male chorus with jazzy horns singing "It's disgusting". Click the link-- I dare you.), the Crosby/Nash collaboration, Manassas (another brick in rock's fetishization of the Confederacy, and not the last), Harvest, Journey Through the Past, and Time Fades Away. Someone wasn't having a problem with producing new material, but Neil Young is mysterious, and went on tour in 1974 with the fellas, presumably for reasons of his own. Looking over the track listing on the new set it seems pretty plain that Neil was the guy who was doing the most writing: the new stuff is mostly all his. And that brings me to my question: Was CSNY as good as we thought at the time?

What it looks like to me is that what we had with this -- collective, I guess-- was a genius in Neil Young, a very capable musician in Stills, and a couple of good harmony singers. I'll go further: except for Young the group's politics were simplistic, and its sexual politics were loathsome. "Carry On" came on the radio this morning, and of course I listened, but you know what? It might as well be by Yes for whatever coherence it has. It doesn't even rise to the level of doggerel, although it sure is pretty. Does it hold up? Hard to say. What I think I want to do is trap some college students in a room and play them Four Way Street. I'm listening to it right now, and I just can't tell. "Teach Your Children" would be the most cloying song in the world if not for "Our House", but damn-- those harmonies. (And hey, how come Nash is the English guy, but Young calls a truck a 'lorrie'? Canadians don't call trucks lorries!) What I guess it comes down to is that it was a moment. Ain't nobody rushing home tonight to slap Manassas on the turntable (and I'd have bet a doughnut that it wouldn't be available on CD-- shows what I know). On the other hand, I might go home tonight and play Time Fades Away.

Monday, August 04, 2014

“A lot of people are curious about what he was like in high school. But really, [basketball great] Kevin McHale is more popular.” Bob Dylan's high school reunion.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

I am generally hesitant to comment on whatever happens to be going on in Israel at any given moment, basically because a lot of people who I like and respect have strong opinions on the topic, and almost certainly know more than I do about it. However, it does seem to me that if one reason to favor Israel in its conflicts is that it is a democracy in a region that doesn't really have any or many others (I suppose it depends on where you think, or what you think, Turkey is), then I have to say that I don't think Israel is behaving the way that democracies ought. It looks kinda to me as though Israel is verging on-- if it has not already become-- an apartheid state, and at this point in history we ought to know that being an apartheid state is very, very wrong, and very, very dangerous. I say this in the full knowledge that the United States was itself an apartheid state for most of its history-- indeed, that's why I feel empowered to say it. One might counter that Jim Crow America was different because the oppressed African-American population in the US was not an "existential" threat in the same way that Hamas or its enablers are thought to be, but I'm not so sure that this is a valid distinction. Absolutely the Boers in South Africa felt their existence threatened, and it seems to me that when the smoke is cleared away that's how James O. Eastland and Lester Maddox and the rest of them felt as well.

It also seems to me that it is unproductive to think of the situation in Israel as an ancient animosity. I mean, it seems like on some level it certainly is, just as antisemitism seems to be just about as ancient as Judaism, but what good does thinking about the problem that way do anyone? It's bad enough that the problem seems more accurately described as going back to 1948-- that should be ancient enough.

As long as I am wading into these waters, one other point. It seems pretty obvious that the reason Israel is targeted by so many other regimes in the region is that it is a convenient distraction for the oppressive, non-democratic regimes in the neighborhood. In addition to straight up antisemitism -- a historically easy pretext-- there is also the fact of substantial relative deprivation, now exacerbated by conditions in Gaza. Again, the example of the United States is instructive: when you kick the underdog, the underdog will lash back. There were a lot of cities in the US that burned when we failed to recognize this.

So what's the answer? I have no idea if there is an answer at all. It seems to me that wars basically end when one or both sides become too exhausted to continue, and that doesn't seem to be happening. I'd feel a lot better about it if I thought anyone on either side was prepared to concede that the present conditions are madness, but that doesn't seem to be happening.  

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Our glamor profession really is a small world. Years ago I had a case before Judge Thomas Griesa, and now here he is, crashing the Argentine economy. If they'd had asked me, I'd have told them he was a stickler.

It wasn't my case, exactly-- I was just the cannon fodder that was trotted over to Foley Square. This was back in my Kelner & Kelner days, when I was a new lawyer. Greisa was still a pretty new judge back then, although, since Nixon appointed him in 1972 he'd must been on the bench for ten or twelve years at that point. That's how time goes in federal court: it's geologic. Nobody in the office had been before him, so we didn't know how he'd be. It seems to me that we must have been removed into federal court, but I don't recall now. It was probably the biggest case in the office, and it was certainly one of the biggest I'd work on for a long time. We underestimated the judge's willingness to go soft on his scheduling order, as I recall, and as a result we ended up spending a few Saturdays and Sundays in the office taking depositions. This made everyone unhappy and cranky, and were the only weekends I ever saw Joe Kelner in the office. (In truth, I was only rarely there myself. In those days, and in New York, lawyers worked late, but our weekends we took stuff home if we had to do it over the weekend.) It seems to me that there was some effort made to push the trial date back as well, and that this was also unavailing. My recollection was that the judge was very, very detail oriented, and arrived at things by focusing on the trees rather than the forest, and that seems to be what is going on with the Argentine bond matter, although, to his credit, he has appointed a mediator. That's a good play in a case like this: Don't Make Me Decide This.

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