|From The Editor
Growing up during the Cold War, it seemed a dark, dangerous and ever-present part of life. The threat of nuclear Armageddon hung deep in the background and the belief that young Russian soldiers were dedicated to our eventual destruction was part of the times along with black-and-white TV.
That combined with stories from my dad who, as an American soldier, went to meet a group of Russian soldiers who, as allies, were also fighting against Germany. He said they sang songs and drank vodka until late in the night.
Those contrasting impressions of the Russian power telescoped into the recent past when I went on a train tour of Europe with my niece and nephews, stopping for a while in Berlin. Their favorite part of the time there was seeing a piece of the Berlin Wall that was still standing and then touring the small, private museum at Checkpoint Charlie, the iconic point of confrontation between East and West where soldiers manned opposing sentry huts.
Where the college students had breezed through the greatest museum I have ever been to, the National Archeological Museum of Athens, emerging well ahead of me, they lingered far behind in the Checkpoint Charlie museum. I waited for them at a café table directly across from the entrance, and had finished most of a beer by the time they came out.
They were fascinated by the tricks that people used to cross from East to West: the balls covered with tin foil thrown into the sea by a kayaker to throw off the Eastern radar; the two-surfboard stack on top of the car that, hollowed out, provided just enough space for a person; the car seat, apparently empty, inside which a person had hidden.
The museum brought back to mind that great tension between the world's super powers, that while certainly brutal to those behind the Iron Curtain, did not involve child soldiers, rape as a widespread war tactic, gassing of civilians and tribal genocide. It was a great game of strategy, with the world as a chesss board, each side trying to take the other's pieces.
And so when I looked at the map of Crimea, I knew the old game was back on.
Because you just had to look at its position, a huge peninsula like a sentry hut facing Europe, positioned centrally in the Black Sea, where a Russian fleet is based, and it seemed odd to me that anybody doubted that the undeclared soldiers taking over the airports were Russian military.
You knew there was no way the Russians would allow the forces of the west to gain a foothold on that peninsula. The game is not played that way.
Unlike the many conflicts in the world where the death toll continues to tick higher and higher, the occupation of Crimea was done without bloodshed, as it appears so far, aided in large part by a great majority of the population that associates itself with Russia more than the West.
So what is the counter-move.
There is talk, fairly bold, and the consideration of economic sanctions. But talk and sanctions will not alter a newly powerful and energy-rich Russia from pursuing its close-to-home strategic interest.
The ultimate solution in the Ukraine will probably be, as it has been in East-West conflicts of old, a quiet bargain.
Russia has taken Crimea. So what will the other part of the bargain be.
One deal would be that Russia gets Crimea and Europe in effect gets the rest of Ukraine through the stabilization of its current Europe-leaning government. But it could easily get more complicated.
The region is naturally split by the Dnieper River that runs from north to south into the Black Sea and breaks the country roughly into a West-leaning western half and an East-leaning eastern half.
The geopolitical question remains whether both halves will go into the western sphere of influence, or whether there will be a further division, as there was in centuries past.
A summary look at Ukraine's history shows that the region, a central European breadbasket, has been fought over for centuries. In the 1600s, at the conclusion of a devastating 30-year war called "The Ruin," the so-called "Eternal Peace" was a deal between Poland which took the land west of the river and Russia which took the land east of the river.
A student of history could well believe that the Russian gambit is not over.
The Worst Horn Player in the World
I went to the repair shop to pick up my clarinet the other day but the usual guy wasn't there. An old Mexican trumpet player took my check. I'll call him Joe. A half-hour chat with him reminded me of all the things I loved about the jazz life.
You couldn't have shut Joe up if you shoved a clarinet swab down his throat, but I didn't want to shut him up; I wanted to listen to his stories. I believed every single one. He told them one after another without indicating at any time that anyone might find any humor in them. It's just how things were.
He told me about "the worst sax player in the world," who made $1 million from one song. I checked it out and it's all true.
Chuck Higgins cut "Pachuko Hop" in 1952.
"He was the worst sax player in the world," Joe said, cradling his Bach Stradivarius trumpet in his hands. "I thought he recorded it as a joke. But it went to number one in California. Then it went to number one in the nation, and it stayed there forever.
"When it hit number one nationwide and the residuals started coming in he'd made a million dollars. He was driving a new car, wearing spiffy clothes. And he could hardly play at all. They used to kick him out of jam sessions because he'd play his whole solo in the wrong key. And he didn't even know it."
"Did he keep playing after he cut 'Pachuko Hop'?" I asked.
"I don't know. Who cares? It went to number one in Germany. Then it went to number one in France and England.
"Bobby Avila used to kick him out of jam sessions. He said, 'Don't let that guy come in here again, because if he does I'm going to kick his ass.' This was after he'd played a whole solo in the wrong key.
"But pretty soon on gigs people would come up to Bobby and say, 'Can you play "Pachuko Hop"?' And Bobby would say, 'Pachuko Hop,' what's that? I told him it was a song by Chuck Higgins and he said, 'What, that guy?'
"But I wrote it out for him cause we had to learn it because everybody was always asking for it. Everybody had to play it: Harry James, Count Basie had to play it."
Joe shook his head and wandered off into a story about his new, shallower mouthpiece, and how he had to play a session in two weeks and the new mouthpiece ...
Joe is 79 years old. When he wasn't telling stories he was playing old tunes for me. He loved Chet Baker. He'd never heard of Fats Navarro. Had a distant acquaintance with Clifford Brown. Joe's roots went way back before be-bop. He told me his father used to play with Jack Teagarden, and I believe it.
I had to escape the Little Shop of Horns, though. Old jazz stories or not, I had work to do. I picked up my horn and tried to ease on out of there, but Joe followed me, relentlessly telling me stories.
"Remember Mighty Joe Houston?" he asked.
"I remember Mighty Joe Young," I said.
"He would only play on his back."
"A honker, hey?" I said, wistfully looking at my truck, so near and yet ...
"He'd only play one note, and he'd only play on his back," Joe said, truthfully, I am sure.
"Hey, man," I said, "I got to go."
Here is a link to Chuck Higgins' Number One International Hit "Pachuko Hop," from 1952. I suggest you skip it and do something useful with your life. Wash your truck or something ...
|From The Courts
I love the Internet.
It's a fine illustration of the truism that you can't please everybody.
Or maybe anybody.
The best parts of almost any Internet posting that allows comments are the comments. If you want to be entertained, skip over any postings and go right to the responses.
Case in point: a recent American Bar Association Journal web report on a lawyer who insists on a dress code for his law firm.
It's actually just a brief summary of a column he wrote for OC Lawyer Magazine. I believe that's the publication for Obsessive Compulsive attorneys, so a piece on fussy dressing made a lot of sense.
I have no love for fashion police - I dress for failure almost every day. But I could see this OC lawyer was just trying to be helpful by pointing out that some clients are impressed by clothing.
The unfortunate example of this in the guy's column was of an elderly, grumpy Ed Asner in a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" bit complaining about a casually dressed lawyer. (I emphasize the word "elderly.")
It didn't seem like a big deal.
Then came the comments. There were already 22 of them when I checked the day the article was posted. Twenty-one were negative and the other one was a comment on someone else's comment, which was negative too.
I recommend them all. My favorite: "Send this guy to Brooks Brothers to learn a little class. He looks like a bookie. Three-piece suit in SoCal? BTW, is this really from The Onion?"
Good question. There are times when I think the entire Internet is from The Onion.
The real issue here is, how do you say or do anything in public without being heaped with scorn?
The obvious answer is that you can't. Become a public figure of any sort and be prepared for the Snarknado.
But you can mitigate.
Be negative. If you can't say something mean, don't say anything at all. It's more difficult being negative about someone who's already negative.
To use the example of our Obsessive Compulsive attorney, consider how much better he'd have been received if instead of politely criticizing bad outfits and insisting on good fashion, he'd ridiculed some opposing counsel's mismatched socks and loafers.
"Dude thinks the jury won't notice the fit on those puffy jodhpurs. He be lucky they don't convict him for violating the Uniform Dress Code. WOL - Weep Out Loud! #Uglyincourt #Getoutofmyoffice."
Or something like that.
The Internet would have cheered him on.
You need to know your audience.
So what should you wear? If you scour the Internet (and, boy, it sure needs scouring), you'll see there's an awful lot online about how lawyers should dress.
Most of the writers seem to think attorneys should dress up and/or look conservative, but you have to consider the self-selection bias. Those of us who don't care how we look don't care about how other people dress, so what's the point in writing about it?
The best answer to this question that I came across came, not surprisingly, from answer.com: "What is the dress code for lawyers?
"Dark suit and tie. No hats. For women, should wear a dress. Many old-time judges will throw a woman out of court for wearing pants.
"This will vary from jurisdiction, with federal courts being the most strict."
Short, to the point, and not very helpful. Everything on the Internet should be like that.