Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

I finally saw Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). I wish I’d stayed virtuously ignorant.

As an avid movie-goer, I try to see all the Academy Award Best Picture Nominees before the annual self-congratulatory award show orgy. But this year I was late. So now playing catch-up, I finally got around to Birdman, which won Best Picture.

Birdman is the supposed black comedy featuring Riggan Thomson, an actor once famous for portraying an iconic Birdman superhero. It stars Michael Keaton as Riggan and who, for what it’s worth, was not a very good Batman.

With an annoying staccato drumbeat for soundtrack, the film depicts Riggan battling his ego, his family, his career, and himself while he struggles to mount a Broadway play. I battled, too, but to stay awake. Now I know why friends told me they wished they’d walked out of the theater midway into the 2-hour movie.

I will spare you the various analyses offered by film critics both of the paid and wanna-get-paid variety. Birdman is either a satiric tour-de-force or a surrealistic portrait or a hilarious high human comedy. Almost every critic in the world was left frothing as they lathered the film with rinsed and repeated praise. Call me an untutored Philistine but I thought it was undeserved.

Fortunately, not every well-known critic was stampeded by the herd. I savored what The New York Observer‘s Rex Reed said of it, “a miserable load of deranged, deluded crap masquerading as a black comedy called Birdman . . . . Some of the critics who embrace this kind of stupidity claim that Birdman pretends to say something witty about the perils of celebrity, fame, stardom, success and failure, not necessarily in that order, but I can find nothing good to say about any shard of the pretentiousness on view here.” 

Amen, brother. I’m only glad that instead of getting flipped the Bird at $10 per ticket at the theater, it cost me only $1.63 from the local Redbox.

My take on movies.

Occasionally, I like discussing movies here. And not always because of a or a connection to the legal system.

I’ve loved movies ever since I can remember, no matter that my earliest recollection is a sad one. At 6 years old, I recall watching a war movie with my dad and crying when the dog got killed.

Someday someone will explain why whenever there’s a dog in a movie, the pup always gets it. To this day, it persists as a cheap, manipulative directorial prop.

Far as I’m concerned, Birdman is just another film proving what I’ve said before. The . What critics call “good” — often mystifies, annoys or bores the rest of us.

“Critics,” I last wrote, “see so many films each year their souls are deadened. They’re left almost bereft of what passes for normal sensation. Consequently, their viewpoints and opinions become increasingly jaded. Unless a movie darkens, depresses and disheartens, it’s not worthy of acclaim. Unless the nihilistic characterizations make you want to slug back a fifth of vodka or jump off a building or slit your wrists, the movie is not an artistic success.”

Jump off a building? According to one interpretation, that’s what Riggan does in the end. Or does he? Who cares?

Call me unvarnished but when I go to the movies, I want to be entertained or educated. And once in a rare while — to be uplifted. No surprise, then, that critically acclaimed downers seldom translate into popular success.

Give me the other Bird, man.


Next time I want a Birdman, give me the attorney with a beak — the other ex-superhero named Harvey T. Birdman of Birdman and the Galaxy Trio. Although he works mostly as a criminal defense attorney alongside other cartoon characters, he’s not emotionally tortured — even if he is a lawyer. So if I want surrealistic comedy, next time I’ll take the other Birdman.


Photo Credits: Harvey Birdman Attorney at Law, by Nathan Rupert at Flickr via Creative Commons-Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License; Captain Future: Man of Tomorrow, by Colleen A. Bryant at Flickr via Creative Commons; Português: El Rey, nosso senhor e amo by Angelo Agostini at Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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Long time readers know I’m continually inspired by ‘seize-the-day’ true believers of any age and persuasion, but especially by those still sucking the marrow out of life — even as the sun ebbs.

Last July, I was enthused by Oliver Sacks’ testimony to Sacks, a neuroscientist by profession, offered his life reflections about old age in a New York Times essay on the eve of turning 80. Besides being a time of leisure and freedom, Sacks observed that with old age, those remaining sands of the hourglass also provide a time “to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.”

A terminal condition.

But recently, I learned Sacks had returned again to the pages of the ‘Gray old lady,’ but this time to reflect anew not only about life — but also about “his luck” running out on learning that at 81, he has terminal cancer.

Writing last month, Sacks described how “a few weeks ago I learned that I have multiple metastases in the liver.” The news, he declared, gave him “a sudden clear focus and perspective” with no room left for the “inessential.”

Not to be unsympathetic, his was hardly the uncommon reaction. It was Samuel Johnson, after all, who long ago observed, “When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

All the same, Sacks resolved, “It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.”

And ever introspective, dwelling on the abruptions felt with the passing of his generation’s contemporaries, he poetically reflected, “There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.”

With his concluding thoughtful ruminations, I have to admit how much I gained from what Sacks said so evocatively. He was moving and meaningful. He again inspired those paying attention to live more deeply felt, more fully awake lives. “I cannot pretend I am without fear,” he wrote. “But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

“Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”


Photo Credits: Hourglass, by AliHanlon at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license; Bridge into fog by SPC Lasha Harden, U.S. Army at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license; Flaming From Behind, by AliHanlon at Flickr via Creative Commons attribution license.

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I don’t have a team to root for in this Sunday’s Super Bowl XLIX. The Packers choked like Luca Brasi and the 49’ers were never in the hunt.

That said, I still plan to watch the game although not out of parochial loyalty because it’s hometown-hosted in Satan’s crotch.

Red carpet moment.

Thanks to the NFL’s marquee event, Arizona’s all over social media; the blogosphere; the traditional newscasts; and of course, all the sports channels.

Local chamber of commerce types have overstated their Op-eds and overcooked their media interviews with tongues and tails wagging like nervous Cocker Spaniels who piddle when guests ring the doorbell. Can’t fault them, though. This is Arizona’s red carpet moment.

“The Super Bowl of Sex.”

But the fact is, despite all the media hype and hoopla, I find myself agreeing with Matt Brown, one of my Arizona lawyer blogging amigos, who a few days ago was justifiably in high dudgeon not over the game but over crackdowns by “sociopathic authority figures” in the lead-up to the big game. Mix predatory cops, lazy prosecutors, broadly-worded criminal statutes and onerous mandatory sentences and you have a prescription for easy guilty plea deals for “Super Bowl Johns,” he opines in his post, “The Superbowl . . . Of Sex?,” which was not only aptly argued and titillatingly titled but amusingly angry.

Hookers not haboobs in Super Bowl forecast.

Matt’s a criminal defense lawyer and so he’s allowed to get deflate-gated over the “sleazy” and “desperate” entrapment tactics that make life so easy for local law enforcement feeding the “criminal-justice conveyor belt.”

According to local and national news media, the Phoenix forecast calls not for ‘haboobs’ — but hookers since allegedly, “hordes of sex-crazed Superbowl attendees are currently descending on our fair state with an unquenchable desire” for paid sex.

And while Arizona’s tourism boosters and business types want very much for the Super Bowl to give Arizona a chance to change its tarnished image, I tend to agree more with Matt Brown’s concluding paragraph, “If the powers that be in this state wanted to teach the rest of the country a lesson for thinking Arizona maybe wasn’t the cruel, backwards place it seems to be based on our government’s perpetual quest to out-stupid the rest of the country, mission accomplished. If the rest of the country is lucky, they’ll learn to not acknowledge us anymore. They’ll certainly not want to visit again, and I can’t blame them.”

But what about ‘dem Cardinals?

Photo Credits: Ready to play, by frankieleon at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license; Juno and Melon summer 2012, by Ray Larabie at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license; DSC_0769 by Greg Gorman at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license;Satan’s Super Congress, by DonkeyHotey at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

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https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/9c/2007feb-sushi-odaiba-manytypes.jpg/320px-2007feb-sushi-odaiba-manytypes.jpgA number of years ago when lawyering was not even a twinkle in my eye, I traveled to Flagstaff, Arizona on overnight business. For dinner that evening, my employee suggested of all things — that we have sushi. Ever dubious, I asked, “Sushi in the desert?” Well, he found a restaurant and we tried it. And let’s just say it wasn’t good.

Fast forward to 2015 and little has changed fine dining-wise in the desert. In particular, going out for sushi is a bad idea. Save for those folks who think ‘good sushi’ is oxymoronic, you still won’t find good — much less excellent sushi among the saguaro, scorpions, sand and sidewinders.

Phoenix sushi establishments can of course, buy overnight flash-frozen ‘fresh’ sushi-grade fish for a price. But the thing is — the farther from the coast — the more problematic a dependable palatability. At age 19, I learned that good sushi is not only about freshness, texture, and quality but about firm, dense, aromatic rice. I was fortunate to learn this from an Issei Japanese cuisine gastronomer who was my guide.

https://i2.wp.com/cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/m/matthewhull/preview/fldr_2004_12_08/file0002050956242.jpgLast night with no thanks to Yelp, once more I stepped into the breach of my better judgment and tried a well-established local sushi eatery that was new to me. Like virtually all sushi establishments in the desert, it was another one of those prolific nondescript strip-mall restaurants. Not cute on the outside or the inside.

For not the first time, I was again burned in the desert. I’d forgotten the six essential things I’d come up with long ago to avoid wasting good money on bad sushi. Hope springs eternal in the human belly — “but man never is, always to be blessed.”

First, as any casino buffet employee can tell you, ‘all-you-can-eat’ is the triumph of quantity over quality. Steer clear of all-you-can-eat sushi.

Second, when the sushi chefs only speak Spanish, the odds are good they weren’t classically trained in Japan. Third, if the crab served is the pulverized, shaped, colored and cured fish variety, so much for authenticity.

Fourth, in the way you should bypass Mexican restaurants without any Mexican customers or for that matter, any ethnic restaurant sans its share of knowing native connoisseurs, avoid a sushi restaurant bereft of Asian diners. Fifth, if they don’t have uni on the menu, question their bona fides. And sixth, if the people recommending a sushi establishment to you think mayonnaise and cream cheese smothered cooked fish is sushi, your prospects are dimmed considerably.

In sum, if Portland, Oregon where I spent time last summer is Foodie Heaven, Phoenix and Maricopa County remain Foodie Hell. Forget my “Pho King VIP” credentials or the local paper’s smarmy boosters, you won’t find this town listed anytime soon on any credible top-rated restaurants list whether for sushi or anything else, not for instance, either here or here or certainly not here.

In the place that supposedly invented the abominable chimichanga thereby proving that anything can be deep-fried — when it comes to food, Phoenix remains a bad dining town.


Photo Credits: Many types of sushi ready to eat, by Nesnad at Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; half_fish.jpg By matthew_hull at MorgueFile free photos;Crab Sticks, by Natto at ja.wikipedia at Wikimedia Commons, released under the GNU Free Documentation License; Waiting for Ramen, by Travis Wise at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution License.

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It’s been a few years since I last made reference to bacon. And that’s despite my knowing full well that a lot of people think bacon ought to go with just about everything, perhaps even “The Irreverent Lawyer.” Sir Francis Bacon, after all, was a lawyer. I can hardly aspire to better. “Judges must be aware of hard constructions and strained inferences, for there is no worse torture than the torture of laws, Bacon famously opined.

But intentional puns aside, have you ever tried a bacon sundae? Or a bacon mint?


My last porkbelly post.

In 2011 when I last made a rasher reference, it was about how in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Thompson v Connick. My post this time, though, is scarcely as indignantly infuriating.

So rather than rant again about the prevalent prosecutorial flouting of the rule in Brady v. Maryland, I’ve instead chosen to post about bacon and how medical science has supposedly found beneficial uses for the artery-clogging comestible. We’re now told there are purportedly “3 ways to use bacon as medical treatment.”

According to scientific literature, bacon’s high salt content induces swelling and blood vessel constriction so that it promotes clotting, ergo, it’s good to stop nosebleeds as a nasal tampon made out of bacon. And then there’s the use of bacon fat as bait to entice dermis-damaging infectious larvae to the skin surface for facile, quick tweezer removal. The larvae are left behind by a particularly nasty insect. And last, there’s the medical use of bacon fat again but this time as an ingredient in a topical itch cream for scabies. (Hat tip to the magazine, Mother Jones at http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2015/01/3-real-medical-conditions-bacon-can-cure )

With apologies to the physicians I hold in the highest esteem, I nevertheless remain skeptical about newfangled claims from our cutting-edge medical practitioners. Take for instance the advice, which I’ve dutifully followed about taking daily low dose aspirin. As it now it turns out, there’s news that 1 in 10 patients have been inappropriately prescribed aspirin.

As a friend recently pointed out to me hearing again my frustrated reflections on how often doctors come up with errant diagnoses, “There’s a reason they’re called practicing physicians” he quipped sardonically.

No matter, though, for those not believing in the wonders of smeared bacon fat salvation. Methinks there’s something to the notion that bacon does go with everything — so why not FREE CLE for equally practicing attorneys? The latest Free CLE roundup follows along with the usual disclaimers about content, continued availability, and acceptance for credit by your jurisdiction.


Stafford Publishing

Sign Up to Receive Your Free Webinar Download

Metropolitan Corporate Counsel

Compensation Series Webinar: What’s Next for Director Compensation

Date: Thursday, January 29, 2015

Clifford Law Offices

2015 Webinar: “The Ethics of Conflicts of Interest”

MCLE Information: Clifford Law Offices is an accredited Illinois MCLE provider. This program has been approved for 2.00 hours of professional responsibility credit in Illinois.

Date: Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015

Time: 2:30-4:30 p.m.



Miller Law Group

In-House Counsel Webinar Series
January 22, 2015 – 11:00am – 12:00pm
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Legal Update for Lawyers
(1.0 hour of Elimination of Bias MCLE Credit)

Click here to register

Employment Law Update Webinar Series
January 29, 2015 – 10:00am – 11:30am
California’s New Paid Sick Leave Law: An Employer’s Guide
(1.5 hours of HRCI & MCLE Credit)

Click here to register


National Academy of Continuing Legal Education (NACLE)

In association with Frankfurt Kurnit, “free access to a variety of Frankfurt Kurnit courses on topics ranging from legal ethics, to advertising compliance, to employment law – and more”

Registration required (NOTE THIS IS THE NOW CORRECTED LINK). https://www.nacle.com/Register 


Barkley Court Reporters

Leveraging Trial Technology in a Visual Society (1 hour)

“This program will prepare litigation departments for trial in the 21st century. From scanned exhibits to 3-D animated videos, our trial tech specialist will explain all the elements of visual trial preparation and presentation. Learn to utilize state-of-the-art technology to convey information visually and maximize communication with jurors.”
(1 Credit – IL, NY nontransitional, CA, NV)



The City of Surprise, Arizona

Free seminar on recent employment law and use law cases

Location: The City of Surprise – Public Safety Auditorium, 16000 N. Civic Center Plaza, Surprise, AZ 85374

Date: Wednesday, March 4, 2015, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

This activity is worth 2.0 CLE credits.

Registration is FREE. Contact (623) 222-1157

RSVP by February 4, 2015.


Almost FREE:

1000 Friends of Florida for monthly webinars on planning, development and growth issues facing Florida

February 11, 2015, Noon to 1:30 p.m.
Victor Dover on Street Design:  The Secret to Great Cities and Towns
Cost $10 per participant
Register Now!

March 11, 2015, Noon to 1:30 p.m.
2015 Florida Legislative Update
Cost $10 per participant
Register Now!


Photo Credits: Bacon mints, by Ryan McFarland at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution license; Denny’s Maple Bacon Sundae at Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license; Library Visitor, umjanedoan by at Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution license.

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People 3050About a year ago, I again posted about how far, in the minds of some, the ‘noble profession of law’ has slipped its ‘surly bonds — but not ‘to touch the face of God’ — thanks in part to lawyer advertisers.

Ah, thank the lawyer hordes relentlessly pursuing virtually unrestrained inventively immoderate ways to differentiate themselves in a glutted legal market.

One of my ‘favorite’ examples of the inventive immoderation remains 2011’s “Chasing ambulances? Some say lawyer’s latest ad crosses taste boundaries.” 1


No cheer here. Benjamin M. Palmer (1818-1902)

Meanwhile, those subscribing to the more prosaic view of lawyers as members of Benjamin M. Palmer’s long ago “solemn priesthood”2 remain shocked, aghast and dismayed.

But get a grip — of whatever, including all four cheeks if you have to. After all, those who take a business-minded view of the law will instead deem such off-the-wall efforts as merely needfully aggressive stratagems to project a requisite brand and market differentiation.

Consumer attention-spans are short; shock-value diluted; social media cheap and available; and reality-television the exemplar. Therefore, the law-as-business types while possibly conceding without much lamentation that the boundaries of good taste are stretched, will nonetheless pronounce those boundaries incalculably elastic in a crowded marketplace. See, for instance, “Super bowl, super-sized and Jamie Casino’s super advertisement.”

Caucasian businesswoman with finger pointing upwards uidTsk-tsking the ignobility and calling instead for higher purpose are the likes of former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm who writing for the Michigan Bar magazine stated,“The practice of law is a noble profession. We lawyers are called to be so much more than narrow technicians, implementing the great, mediocre, or ignoble designs of our particular clients.”

So she says. For yet another, see Anthony T. Kronman’s now 20-year old tribulation, Lost Lawyer: Failing Ideals of the Legal Profession.

But meantime, there’s this from a member of the California bar:

And a Happy Belated New Year.

[1] For a different take on an ambulance-chasing lawyer, see Wallace T. Figg from John Grisham’s hilariously delightful novel, The Litigators.
[2] Decrying “selfish utilitarianism” and “materialism,” the good Rev. Palmer high-mindedly wrote, “It is filling the noble profession of the law with mendicant attorneys, prostituting the solemn priesthood of their office by opening the subterfuges of legal chicanery to villainy and fraud.” – Johnson, Thomas Cary, The Life and Letters of Benjamin Morgan Palmer, Presbyterian committee of publication, 1906

Photo Credits: Benjamin M. Palmer (1818-1902), Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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Having felt trapped more than once in a corporation or public utility’s fifth circle of customer service hell, I empathize with the public’s anger and frustration. Nothing elevates the blood pressure like getting placed in interminable telephone waiting queues or otherwise being forced to engage in futile debates with unresponsive call center drones when trying to fix a customer problem.

No wonder the epic customer service meltdown that circulated last year resonated with so many. Talk about a teachable but unlearned moment.

And also see Aaron Spain’s viral video, “Comcast put me on hold until they closed,” about his sitting on hold for 3 hours trying to cancel Comcast service last August.

So when I heard about a new web-based service purporting to “fight the faceless corporations causing your customer service nightmares,” I was intrigued — in spite of the website’s indelicate name, “Assholes On Demand.” Their motto is “Non sibi, sed suis” or “Not for oneself but for one’s own.” Of course, it could all be for laughs, too.

The “project” is headed by principals Erin Scottberg and Erik Martin who list a Manhattan area phone number on their website and offer the following somewhat ambiguous explanation about their deliverables:

“Assholes on Demand helps people get what they rightfully deserve. We’re caring and resourceful assholes* who will fight the faceless corporations causing your customer service nightmares. You’re not alone and you aren’t going crazy. 

“Assholes on Demand currently only accepts Pro Bono cases. We specialize in helping senior citizens, active duty military, and non-English speakers.

“If you or a loved one have no where else to turn, contact us maybe we can help. If you’re an asshole, volunteer with us and put your powers to good use. 

We’re like the X-Men, but for assholes!”

Giving them the benefit of the doubt, however, I salute the undertaking. Hopefully it does turn out to be altruistic and honest of intentions.

Last, I don’t know if the folks providing “Assholes on Demand” are lawyers. I doubt it, even if it sounds like this ought to be a lawyer’s bailiwick. It prompts, too, my of a salty old lawyer friend who analogously sasses his explanation when asked why people hire lawyers, he answers “Why send an amateur, when you can hire a professional asshole?”

And of course, it also prompts some Mel Brooks.


Photo Credits: “Angry Crazy Man,” by Catherine Helzerman, chelzerman, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content requiring attribution and share alike distribution.

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