Just as the cocktail renaissance has brought renewed fame to classics like the martini, the Manhattan and the Negroni, it has heaped fresh infamy on a rogues’ gallery of less classy concoctions, most of which emerged during the final decades of the last century.
Now a backlash of sorts has begun, as some high-end bartenders apply their skills to a new challenge: doing bad drinks well.
Bars like Holiday Cocktail Lounge in New York; Pépé Le Moko in Portland, Oregon; and the Automatic in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the martini shares space on the menu with a blue margarita, have risen to this curious challenge.
Whenever I see the Blue Hawaiian cocktail, which is not often, I compusively think of Elvis in Blue Hawaii (1961):
Two by two.
The martini is not a complex drink.
Mercifully, this article keeps the options simple:
The cocktail world is divided into two camps: those who order martinis and those who don’t. And for those who don’t, it may be because they just haven’t found their best martini yet.
There are many different ways to mix this cocktail, and there’s a recipe out there for everyone ― you just have to know what to ask for when you stroll up to the bar.
Classically, a martini is one part dry vermouth to four parts gin. But that recipe is not set in stone ― here are eight different ways you can order the cocktail. Figure out what’s right for you and have a better happy hour.
A great concept from the United Kingdom: a mobile gin van:
Forget hosting a BYOB gathering, you can now pay for a mobile gin van to deliver delicious drinks straight to your party. The catch is that you can’t have the van, called The Wanderer, on speed dial for a quick drink or two.
Instead, the van, created by New World Trading Company (NWTC), has to be hired as a fully-kitted mobile bar, so it’s more suitable for weddings and big celebrations than your average house party.
Still, dedicated gin fans may be tempted to club together for an extravagant Saturday night after hearing what the van offers.
From the UK’s Daily Mail, an article on retro drinks and the current popularity of bitter drinks (the Negroni) and ingredients (such as Campari, Cinzano and Aperol):
Speaking about the new trend, John Vine, drinks buyer at Waitrose, said: ‘Bitter notes can be refreshing and act as a foil to sweetness , the right balance makes for the perfect cocktail.’
His comments correspond with data from the store, which shows a thirty five per cent sales increase in sales of Cinzano, which is perhaps best known for its placement in the iconic TV advert featuring Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins.
I am a fan of bitter cocktails and have written previously about the Negroni. Such drinks reflect, in some ways, this vale of tears through which we pass.
Failing to recall the “iconic TV ad,” I looked it up:
Outstanding. According to the Campari corporate website:
Rated 11th best TV commercial of all time, the most famous Cinzano TV ads were those of Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins during the 1970s. The infamous couple engaged in 10 unforgettable slapstick sketches that always ended in Rossiter pouring a glass of Cinzano on a progressively more resigned Joan Collins.
Rose be damned. I am partial to gin. Spaniards apparently take their gin and tonic seriously:
“In Spain, gin-tonic is not just a cocktail, it is an obsession,” says José Andrés. Here’s everything you need to know to nail this iconic drink at home—and six places in the States with excellent G&T options.
In Spain, fresh herbs (lemon verbena, rosemary or lavender), lemon peel, juniper berries, edible flowers and even whole spices are used to enhance the gin’s botanicals.
Finally, here is a recipe for the Joy Division cocktail. This may be worthy of a try: at times, I will rinse the inside of a martini glass with absinthe, which manages to simultaneously slow down and speed up the gin.
I know little of the post-punk English band from which the cocktail takes its name, although one of my favorite crime writers, Ian Rankin, used the title of one of their songs for a book title.
More to my taste, and to start you into your weekend, is Rare Earth’s 1970 version of “Get Ready”:
In 1950, producers Frank and Maurice King released Gun Crazy, a sometimes surreal Bonnie-and-Clyde story with an introverted, pacifist gun lover (Barton Tare, played by John Dall) and an English femme fatale sharpshooter (Annie Laurie Starr, played by Peggy Cummins). Carried forward by his lust for and fascination with Annie, the non-violent Bart — without thinking or planning — becomes a robber and, eventually, an accessory to murder.
A classic American film noir, Gun Crazy has merited a book (Eddie Mueller’s Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema) and much commentary by film buffs. It also gives us insight into a common question in white-collar cases: “Why did he [or she, but usually he] do it?”
The question of motive in white-collar cases is not an idle one but, rather, has implications for how prosecutors charge; how juries hear evidence; how defense lawyers defend; and how judges sentence.
But first, a little about this very strange, very cool movie.
The most famous scene is the bank robbery, which is one, long 7-minute shot. It’s long, so you may want to come back to it:
According to Wikipedia:
The bank heist sequence was shot entirely in one long take in Montrose, California, with no one besides the principal actors and people inside the bank alerted to the operation. This one-take shot included the sequence of driving into town to the bank, distracting and then knocking out a patrolman, and making the get-away. This was done by simulating the interior of a sedan with a stretch Cadillac with room enough to mount the camera and a jockey’s saddle for the cameraman on a greased two-by-twelve board in the back. [The director] kept it fresh by having the actors improvise their dialogue.
In other words, when actor John Dall hopes aloud that there is parking place, he isn’t kidding: other than the people inside the bank, nobody knew that there was a movie being made or a bank robbery about to be staged, and no parking space had been reserved.
And what is the point of this for us white-collar readers?
The point is that almost nobody starts out to be a white-collar offender, any more than Bart starts out to be a bank robber. People rarely say on Monday: “Note to self – commit mail fraud by the end of the week.” The question is less one of “intent” and more one of “motive.”
Many people, federal prosecutors, scholars, and media commentators claim that executives make decisions, including criminal ones, through explicit cost – benefit calculation. Although such deliberate reasoning is consistent with the way many business decisions are made, this exclamation seems that odds with how these former leaders made the choices that eventually led them to prison. Mini we’re not mindfully weighing the expected benefits against the expected costs. If they had been, even the remote chance of being caught and sent to prison, upending their otherwise comfortable lives, would have weighed heavily on their conscience. But I didn’t see this. Instead, I found that they expanded surprisingly little effort deliberating the consequences of their actions. They seem to have reached their decisions to commit crimes with little thought or reflection. In many cases, it was difficult to say that they had ever really “decided” to commit a crime at all.
Soltes goes on to say later in the book:
The prevailing ideas around reducing white – collar criminality rely on the assessment that executives are reasoning and calculative when they decide to commit and illegal act.
The emphasis on viewing cost – benefit analysis as a psychological model of choice rather than as simply a description of behavior has led to a particular notion of why once successful and intelligent executives commit white – collar crime long – namely, that these executives make thoughtful and deliberative calculations to break the law when doing so serves their needs and desires. They are not making hasty decisions with clouded judgment. Their personal failure lies in reasoning that the illicit choice is the ” appropriate” one.
[T]he trouble with this theory is that it doesn’t seem to match especially well with how executives who engage in white-collar crime actually think.
Why does this matter?
After all, many people (and almost all prosecutors) would argue that the “why” of things does not matter in the criminal context. In other words, they say, although “intent” is relevant, “motive” is not. The only important question, under this approach, is whether the person charged had sufficient “culpable intent” or a “guilty mind.” Under this view, “motive” is neither inculpatory nor exculpatory, even though the Federal Rules of evidence do allow, under certain circumstances, evidence to be admitted as proof of motive. (Consider Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b), which allows bad acts to be offered as evidence of motive).
But motive does matter. It matters for charging decisions. It matters for how juries hear evidence in the courtroom and how lawyers speak with them. And it matters for sentencing.
Prosecutors have discretion, as they should, with regard to whom to charge (and for what). If the cost-benefit model that Soltes describes is the governing lens through which a charging decision is made, then it is reasonable to expect that there will be over-charging (or at least more aggressive charging) as compared to an approach that, in a more nuanced fashion, appreciates the way business people actually make decisions. If I believe that your action is the result of a careful, cold cost-benefit analysis, I will conclude, other things being equal, that a more serious charge is due. As you sow, so shall you reap.
On the other hand, if I understand that rather than cost-benefit analysis what I am seeing is something more akin to business negligence, I may reasonably decide that a less serious charge (or no charge at all) is due. In Soltes’s words, if what I as the prosecutor see is “little effort deliberating the consequences of [one’s] actions,” I may think differently: after all, negligence, even gross negligence, is not normally the province of the criminal courts.
Maybe a cutaway would help.
How Juries Hear
Motive colors the jury’s intake of evidence, and the prevailing zeitgeist of cost-benefit analysis works against the presumption of innocence (itself a largely extinct species, as I have discussed here and here and here.
Why is this so?
Distrust of business — and especially of large organizations, global institutions and the financial-services industry — is high among jurors across multiple demographics and political orientations. The caricature of the cold, calculating “fat cat” businessperson fits neatly with popular suppositions — and, sometimes, conspiracy theories — about business and finance. No amount of pretrial questionnaires or voir dire can address these deep-seated concerns with any regular success. At trial, the Government understandably seeks to tap into these veins of distrust and fear. And, once the jury hears at least some evidence confirming its initial biases, it is almost impossible, even for the most skilled defense lawyer, to turn them around.
On the other hand, if the jury rejects “cost-benefit” assumptions and believes that, in general, most white-collar defendants are not “reasoning and calculative” when they act (Soltes again), two things may happen.
First, the near-extinct presumption of innocence may be revived.
Second, if even some members of the jury conclude that the defendant was mindless (or just stupid), the chances increase that evidence offered by the Government will be examined more critically.
Just do the math.
If cost-benefit analysis is a religion in white-collar cases, the fraud tables and the concept of “loss” in the federal Sentencing Guidelines constitute its liturgy. Were we to adopt a more realistic understanding of business decisionmaking in the context of white-collar offenses, we would reconsider the content and deployment of at least portions of the Guidelines.
The loss table in USSG 2B1.1.(b) is just math, a form of cost-benefit bracketing. The table attempts to impose a “cost” to a victim that it considers (or the Sentencing Commission considers) commensurate with a defendant’s “benefit.”
Laypersons are always surprised to learn that “loss” under the Guidelines does not mean “loss.” In fact, “loss” can mean “no loss.” (The dollar amount of loss to someone that the court believes the defendant “intended” to cause can be sufficient, even if there is no actual dollar loss to anyone). In a cost-benefit analytical regime, this idea of notional loss may be tolerable: we assume a calculation on the part of the business defendant and thus are more willing to accept a notional loss.
A more realistic view of business decisonmaking would go a long way towards restoring balance is an unbalanced white-collar system.
And, even if you disagree with me, you really should watch Gun Crazy.
Perhaps, like Annie, we all just “want things, a lot of things, big things.” The question is: When do we go to prison for it?
The execution of a search warrant on a residence owned by Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign director, raises some interesting questions. Search warrants are rarely necessary in white-collar cases, yet their use seems to be more and more common.
“A search warrant is very bracing for the person who is being searched,” said Jack Sharman, the former special counsel to the House Banking Committee during its Whitewater investigation of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s. “It’s very invasive and sends a loud statement from the prosecutors to the person that there should be no doubts about the seriousness of the investigation.”
“The government will be investigating something like public corruption, and it knows that you know something about it,” said Mr. Sharman, now a white-collar criminal defense lawyer at Lightfoot, Franklin & White. “The government will then come after you on something unrelated, where you have criminal exposure, in the hopes that you will cooperate on their public corruption investigation.”
He’s also the perfect target to send a message to the rest of Washington that the special counsel investigation means business, said Jack Sharman, a white-collar lawyer in Alabama and former special counsel for Congress during the Bill Clinton Whitewater investigation.
“One purpose of such a raid is to bring home to the target the fact that the federal prosecution team is moving forward and is not going to defer to or rely on Congress,” he said.
Summer’s heat is fully upon us. Let us take a moment for crime fiction and cocktails.
For recent crime-fiction releases, take a look at Midmonth Book Notes from The Poisoned Pen bookstore.
Also, here is a useful “review of reviewers” from The Rap Sheet blog. And, for the visually-oriented, The Rap Sheet has a YouTube channel. One clip I found there was for a show called “The Young Lawyers,” which ran from 1969 to 1971 and which I vaguely recall. As described by IMDb:
David Barrett [a young-looking Lee J. Cobb] heads an organization in Boston that supports poor and indigent clients with the aid of young lawyers, Aaron Silverman is the young idealist, Pat Walters is the black street-smart lawyer and Chris Blake is the WASP added to balance the cast.
The opening credits are outstanding, and show some sharp dressing across Harvard Yard:
Inasmuch as White Collar Wire focuses on white-collar crime, this post by J. Kingston Pierce (the publisher of The Rap Sheet) about “business” in crime-novel titles fits well:
While contemplating the imminent release, in late July, of Killing Is My Business (Tor), Adam Christopher’s second novel in his speculative-fiction/crime-fiction series starring steely eyed, tough-talking robot private investigator Raymond Electromatic, I got to thinking about how many other imaginative yarns based in the realm of crime and corruption have included the word “business” in their titles. At least a good handful, it seems.
Plus, the book-covers are outstanding.
Better late than never, I came across Tipping My Fedora, a detective-fiction, all-media blog which has some fine entries.
A chilled, crystal glass; the purest gin; a touch of dry vermouth–vigorously shaken, not stirred–and a plump, green olive. The martini was and still is more than just a cocktail. Originally mixed in the nineteenth century, it became an American icon in the twentieth, and the favorite drink of such luminaries as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Jack London, and Ernest Hemingway. Bernard De Voto called the martini “the supreme American gift to world culture,” while H. L. Mencken declared it “the only American invention as perfect as a sonnet.”
The first book of its kind to explore the drink’s wide appeal, this volume serves up a fabulous cocktail of martini-inspired art, cartoons, collectibles, advertisements, and film stills that reveal how deeply this classic has permeated every aspect of American culture, from literature and film to politics and high society. Complete with bartending lore, traditional martini recipes, literary excerpts, memorable scenes from James Bond movies, and more, The Martini offers a toast to this intoxicating symbol of the American dream.
One part celebration, one part history, two parts manifesto, Bernard DeVoto’s The Hour is a comic and unequivocal treatise on how and why we drink―properly. The Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author turns his shrewd wit on the spirits and attitudes that cause his stomach to turn and his eyes to roll (Warning: this book is NOT for rum drinkers). DeVoto instructs his readers on how to drink like gentlemen and sheds new light on the simple joys of the cocktail hour. Daniel Handler’s introduction to this reprint of the 1950s classic provides a humorous framework for the modern reader.
The Hour is to the martini as The Elements of Style is to composition. DeVoto hated olives (lemon twist instead) and railed against shaking (preferring the stirred martini, as do I). People will call all sorts of messes a “martini,” but in these days of alleged “fake news” we do well to remember that a martini is a stirred gin cocktail.
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If you are a mission-statement type, here’s ours:
This is a blog about business crime. We post stories about news, cases, judicial opinions, practical tips and scholarly work regarding white-collar criminal and civil enforcement, grand jury investigations and regulatory compliance. We want to be useful to businesspeople, internal counsel, defense lawyers in private practice, prosecutors and law-school teachers.
Sometimes, we write about crime fiction, cocktails and theology. As anyone who’s ever been involved in the defense or prosecution of a white-collar case can testify, all three come in handy.
Don’t read us because you’re a criminal. Read us because, some time or other, someone may think you are.
You’ll get articles about lots of subjects.
I would like you to believe that the thoughtful law-and-policy posts get the most views.
Do not be over-served.
In truth, the metrics say that it’s the cocktail articles that get the most readers.
Of the making of lists of books, there shall be no end. Nevertheless, here is one more.
Set out below are 13 works that every white-collar lawyer – defense counsel, prosecutor or judge – should read.
Why take on such a presumptuous project? Three good reasons.
First, lists start conversations. Although law is (or was) a “learned profession,” relatively few lawyers in my experience have read broadly or deeply since college. The press of work does not allow otherwise. Our professional learning is utilitarian, narrow, cramped and quickly (or gratefully) forgotten.
Second, the proponent of such a list (that is, me) must review, reconsider or even reread works first encountered years or decades in the past. If the list does not help you, it may help me.
Third, the list makes us think why it is, exactly, we do what we do. The usual concepts – justice, productivity, money, honor – are not well-explored in the day-in, day-out of law practice.
A few caveats are in order.
First, this is a personal, idiosyncratic (or eccentric) list. If you want a survey course, go to a community college.
Second, I have made little effort to be “fair,” at least at that term is understood politically today. I have not tried to equally represent time periods, genres, genders or ethnicities. I realize that the list is populated with white males, most of whom are dead or will be soon. Could someone make a list of 13 books written by others? Very much so, and more power to them.
Third, a great many books are not eligible by my own fiat for this list. How so?
I have excluded all biographies and autobiographies of lawyers, even though there are some superb ones. Two that come to mind, for example, are Evan Thomas’s The Man To See (1992) (about Edward Bennett Williams) and Louis Nizer’s My Life In Court (1961).
I have also excluded all how-to books, even though there are a number of excellent ones. My favorite is Herbert J. Stein and Stephen A. Saltzburg’s Trying Cases to Win (2013) (one volume).
There is a lot of dreck written about white-collar criminals and the white collar “mind,” and it was for the most part a pleasure to exclude that sub-genre. Nevertheless, there are some admirable works including, very recently, Harvard Business School professor Eugene Soltes’s Why They Do It and Duke professor (and former Enron prosecutor) Sam Buell’s Capital Offenses.
Like the poet Dante, you have been warned before you enter the gates. Let us turn to 13 books that every white-collar lawyer should read.
A short Gitane, no? A big retainer, yes?
Albert Camus, The Fall | Best known for The Stranger, French novelist Albert Camus (1913-1960) careens in and out of literary fashion. Admittedly, French existentialism is sometimes little more than navel-gazing with bad breath, but Camus at his best is incandescent (and, at his worst, is far better than Stalinist puppets like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir).
The Fall (1956) is narrated by a disgraced lawyer sitting in a Dutch bar. His insights into how we fall from grace and face daily judgment are dark but powerful.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby | There is only a little bit of crime in The Great Gatsby (1925) : Jay turns out to be in the “numbers racket,” and Myrtle is the victim of vehicular homicide. The compelling white-collar aspect of this greatest of 20th-cntury American novels is its study of money and power, as the narrator, Nick Carraway, sets out in the opening:
When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction — Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the “creative temperament.”— it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No — Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.
Saint Paul, Letter to the Romans | On the road to Damascus, Saul famously became Paul. The most powerful of the Pauline letters is the one he wrote to the new Christians living in Rome. Even for the non-Christian or the secular, his analysis of law and grace is unparalleled, especially in chapter 7:
15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
In our own law practices, we may ask of ourselves what we seek to understand about our clients: Who do we serve with our mind, and who do we serve with our flesh?
Time to do a deal.
Scott Turow, Personal Injuries | As a novelist of popular law-oriented contemporary fiction, Turow towers over most others. His 1999 novel Personal Injuries is agonizing (and agonizingly familiar to white-collar lawyers) in its description of lawyer Robbie Feaver’s downfall. As Publishers Weekly noted at the time:
Unlike most of his fellow lawyer-novelists, Turow has always been more interested in character than plot, and in Robbie Feaver, a lawyer on the make who ends up fighting for his life, he has created his richest and most compelling figure yet. For years, Robbie has been paying off judges and squirreling away part of the riches he earns as a highly successful trial lawyer. When the IRS happens upon the money trail, and a top prosecutor leans on him to turn state’s evidence and finger some of the corrupt justices, Robbie calls on George Mason, veteran Kindle County lawyer, to represent him and win the best deal he can. A complicating element in the case is Evon Miller, Mormon-born FBI agent in deep undercover, who is assigned to watch Feaver and finds herself, against her better inclinations, drawn to him–for Feaver is a character of almost Shakespearean contradictions. A charming, brash womanizer who nevertheless shows superhuman reserves of love and patience to his dying wife at home, he is always several jumps ahead of the prosecutors, the FBI and the reader, winning sympathy, even admiration, where there should be none.
William Shakespeare, Macbeth | There are lots of lawyers, law-language and legal proceedings in Shakespeare’s work, but for the white-collar lawyer there is no match for Macbeth. Its themes of power, overreach, ambition and guilt form part of the Western consciousness and are timeless:
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red.
(Macbeth 2.2.57-60 — otherwise known as a Fed.R.Crim.P. 11 “colloquy”).
Beach reading. Russian beach.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment | What, exactly, to say about Crime and Punishment (1866)? As noted by translator David McDuff:
Few works of fiction have attracted so many widely divergent interpretations as Crime and Punishment. It has been seen as a detective novel, an attack on radical youth, a study in “alienation” and criminal psychopathology, a work of prophecy (the attempt on the life of Tsar Alexander II by the nihilist student Dimitri Karakosov took place while the book was at the printer’s, and some even saw the Tsar’s murder in 1881 as a fulfillment of Dostoyevsky’s warning), an indictment of urban social conditions in 19th century Russia, a religious epic and a proto – Nietzschean analysis of the “will to power.” It is, of course, all these things – but it is more.
Like all of us, Raskolnikov – the nihilist student who without any real reason kills an old woman – is guilty of original sin and saved, so to speak, only by suffering. What are the things that bring home to white-collar lawyers the notions of original sin and expiation by suffering? For me, they may be the first meeting with the client; or the second meeting with the client (when the omissions from the first meeting come out); or the decision to plead or go to trial; or the moment when the jury returns with a verdict.
And the good lawyer?
Craig Nova, The Good Son | White-collar lawyers often represent wealthy, powerful men (at least, they hope the people they represent are wealthy). Nova’s depiction of power and wealth, fathers and sons, is extraordinary. If anybody needed good counselors, it’s Nova’s white-collar people in The Good Son (1982).
From novelist John Irving’s 1982 review:
Pop MacKinnon – ”a coarse, charming man, a lawyer, and a good one” – wants his sons to follow his path: to be lawyers who know how to hunt and marry well; to be gentlemen who join that unassailable aristocracy which is earned by tough, no-nonsense cleverness and is protected by money. Son John disappoints Pop; he is killed in World War II. So son Chip – a fighter pilot who was shot down in the war but survived as a P.O.W. – becomes the title character of ”The Good Son,” Craig Nova’s fourth novel. In this dark, deep story of a father and son who love (and love to fight) each other, the good son is the one who will defeat, or even kill, his father with the father’s own weapons.
In this exquisitely delineated battle between father and son, both men are consumed and changed; each gets his own way but both victors pay a price. ”When my boys were younger I sent them to Yale,” Pop Mackinnon says, ”because I wanted all the nonsense knocked out of them. A passing appreciation of books and so on, but no more. I wanted my sons to have sensible ideas.” Pop means the law: ”because law is the thing, the most sensible of all, because it works like a boa constrictor, the best of all snakes. My favorite. A boa doesn’t actually squeeze anything. The snake just wraps itself around a man or a lamb or some unfortunate creature and waits for whatever it’s wrapped around to exhale: the boa then takes up the slack. It’s a procedure, and the law is nothing else if it’s not a procedure. You can trust a snake, especially a nice Harvard one, so that’s why, after the war (after having all the nonsense knocked out of him in New Haven) I sent Chip to law school in Cambridge.”
Peter Taylor, “The Gift of the Prodigal” | Taylor was one of the best American short story writers of the 20th century, and “The Gift of the Prodigal” (published in the New Yorker in 1981 and included in Taylor’s 1996 collection The Old Forest and Other Stories) is a jewel. Narrated by an aging widower in Charlottesville, the short story turns the New Testament parable and has the prodigal, his son Ricky — twice-divorced and frequently in trouble with the law or lovers — bringing a gift to the father as none of his other grown children can.
L.A. Law it is not.
James Ellroy, The Black Dahlia | Although Ellroy’s later work is sometimes frenetic and turgid, his earlier works – especially The Big Nowhere (1988) and The Black Dahlia (1987) – are taut, violent, overwhelming portraits of L.A. noir. The Black Dahlia is based on the 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles. There are not many true “white collar” criminals in Ellroy’s early work, but few novelists set out the dark hearts of law-enforcement, prosecutors and defense lawyers better.
No need for a jury consultant.
Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago | With the demise of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn has receded from the preeminence he had as a dissident, exile, novelist and philosopher in the 1970s. He was, however, one of the great moral figures of the 20th century. Now condensed into a more manageable one volume, The Gulag Archipelago (1973) describes the Soviet “gulags” – the prison camps for political prisoners and others – from the very beginnings of the Revolution to the 1950s. With Communism vanquished, we too often forget what totalitarianism really was. One of its characteristics is the pretense of law used to deprive people of liberty for the benefit of the state. We in the white-collar world are well advised to not forget the grim fact.
Twelve books in one.
John Milton, Paradise Lost | In 1667, John Milton undertook to “justifye the wayes of God to men.” Rebellion and the fall, heaven and hell, perfect justice and marring sin — all remain as vibrant as they were centuries ago.
T.S. Eliot, Murder In The Cathedral | Murder In The Cathedral (1935) is a play in verse, not a book, but it made the list anyway.
Not a street crime.
Eliot, one of the great modern poets and the author of “The Waste Land,” deserves to read for this story of the Christmas Eve murder of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas a’ Becket:
Now is my way clear, now is the meaning plain: Temptation shall not come in this kind again. The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.
And, of course, there is the 1964 film Becket with Richard Burton as the Archbishop of Canterbury and Peter O’Toole as King Henry II:
Still got pop.
George V. Higgins, The Friends of Eddie Coyle | Nobody in American fiction did the dialogue of criminals, law-enforcement and lawyers better than George V. Higgins. Higgins, a one-time AUSA in Boston, apparently honed his craft early by listening to thousands of hours of undercover tape recordings. His first novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1970), is a foundation of contemporary crime fiction.
Opioid medications continue to be in the news, as demonstrated by the recent nationwide state attorneys-general investigation. This situation only demands more attention from physicians and other healthcare providers who may face significant criminal sanctions.
My law partner Brandon Essig recently wrote in Medical Economics:
Over the past three decades, opioids have become a standard and effective component of pain management for many practitioners. They are effectively and safely prescribed in every conceivable clinical environment—primary care facilities, hospitals, pain management clinics and even dentist offices. They are prescribed to treat chronic and intractable pain, such as advanced stage cancer pain or severe burns, but they are also prescribed to treat soft tissue injuries and even prophylactically for post-operative situations where the practitioner knows that the recovery typically, but not always, involves pain.
However, the medical community in the United States, and indeed society as a whole, is also now facing the reality that the side effects of opioid medications can be devastating. When misused and abused, opioids can have the same ill effects on society as any other illicit drug—addiction, crime, overdose, massive public health costs and death. In other words, society is now grappling with the dual realities of opioid medication: 1 – its use as an effective pain management tool is proven and here to stay; and 2 – its dangers and risks are also proven and must be contained.
Medical practitioners who prescribe opioid medications as part of their treatment of patients in pain are caught in the middle of this struggle. Unfortunately for them, one of the primary ways society has chosen to address the dangers and risks of opioids is through legal action—both civil and criminal—against the healthcare practitioners who prescribe them to their patients. Therefore, physicians and other practitioners who prescribe controlled substances are participating in what is perhaps the most high-risk practice of medicine today.
Read the entire article here. (The byline also bears my name, but all I did was review the draft with a see-through in hand).
The opioid issue is not going away. As Caleb Hawley notes, “we all got problems/we all got pain”:
At age 56, I am now four years older than my father was when he died.
For many years, I rarely thought of Daddy.Primarily, I thought about him every January 6, the anniversary of the day he died. Annually, this is a day upon which my mother and I have the same conversation, rehearsed and hushed. I loved him, and one might expect me to have thought of him more often, to have honored him, but I did not, at least not until recently.Before you draw too many conclusions, though, bear in mind that I could not see him clearly.
Have you ever looked through the wrong end of a telescope?The object at which you gaze looks tiny, and slightly blurred at the edges.The object – a tree, a person – is as impossibly distant as the moon is impossibly close when you turn the telescope right way around.When my father died, I had just turned twelve.Although precocious in some ways, I saw him with a child’s eyes, and never after that did my eyes change, at least the eyes with which I saw him.Time passed; I aged, and everything around me changed and aged; but not the eyes with which I struggled to see him.Time passed, but my eyes for my father remained unchanged, a child’s eyes in man’s body.I went further and further down the wrong end of the telescope.
It was only when I became a father, and then approached his death-age and surpassed it, did I understand a little better who he was, and that I could quicken with memory that tiny figure moving in sepia grace at the wrong end of the telescope.
Memory is a treacherous thing, and no less so than between father and son.The danger is in adopting someone else’s memories – my mother’s, for example, who is aged but singular in her devotion to Daddy.My own memories, though, I need to sift and poke through.
He was a CPA, but he and his brother also owned an ice-cream store, a Baskin-Robbins at a mall (which, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in 1970 was as fancy as some Ben and Jerry’s superpremium exotic would be today).At times, we would skip church on Sunday morning so that he could go to the store and take inventory.The mall was empty and silent, and the walk-in commercial freezer blew out white cold air like some massive Antarctic creature.
One night, he and I went out to the mall on a store-errand.I was probably ten.A conservative man, both politically and financially, my father drove a Volkswagen Beetle.The evening was warm, and I cracked my window to let in a breeze.We got out, went to the store, came back to the parking place and discovered the car gone.Although I had dutifully locked the car door, I had failed to roll the window back up completely.At the time, in the twilight of the hippies, “dune buggies” were in great demand.(Admit it – When was the last time you heard of a dune buggy?)Volkswagen Beetles were ideal to be stripped-down and turned into dune buggies, the police told us.They theorized that the thieves had been able to slip a twisted metal coat-hanger into the gap in the window I had left open; pull up the lock; and gain access.
A dune buggy
I was embarrassed, devastated and fearful at the prospect of forcing my father to pay for a new car, even if insurance was available.(He had taken a staff job at the University of Alabama which, I figured out later, paid less than his previous, private-company job). He never got mad about the Beetle, never blamed me and never considered it anything other than an unfortunate event.I was grateful and did not know how to express my gratitude.
Gratitude is not my strongest quality, and there were other things for which to be grateful.There was a trip to Acapulco: we played tennis, and the breakfast pancakes had Mexican chocolate in them.My tennis career was budding, and he hired a contractor to build a cinder-block backboard on one side of the driveway, painted dark green the way I imagined the high walls at Wimbledon might be.There was a beach trip to Destin, Florida.The motel where we stayed had a bar and, one afternoon when I went to get some ice from the sweating ice machine, I passed the bar.The band was rehearsing: “Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog,” by Three Dog Night.Also, Daddy had been a high school basketball player, and he encouraged my (undistinguished) play in the downtown YMCA youth league.
That was the day he died, the Saturday of a Y basketball game.The day was cold and clear.He watched my game and brought me home (in yet another Beetle, this one green).After my shower, I built a fire in the coal grate.(An oddity, coal fires, but the house was old and the fireplace built for coal.Some people do not like coal fires.As a child, I loved them.Pockets of gas would escape and explode in blues and purples around the black coals, demons escaping from rock).
Daddy had complained of nausea and went to lie down in my parents’ bedroom.I got the fire into a good, colorful roar.The demons were looking good.My mother must have known how impressed I was with my fire-making skills, and she helped my father up to the living room to see my handiwork.Something was amiss.Even I knew something was amiss when all he could do – he who was usually so effusive in praise for me – was to nod and murmur something I do not remember.
He went back to the bedroom, I went back to watching the purple and blue demons crack and jump from coal to coal.There was a commotion, my mother cried out and I ran down the hall towards their bedroom.No Daddy.My mother was saying something about He fell, and she was on the phone.My words and hers all run together now.
I stood there, rooted, terrified.I did not know what had happened, but I did not want to look at him.I was afraid to look at him.I didn’t care: I was afraid.I was also a failed Boy Scout, so I asked some inane question to cover up my cowardice.
But my mother was talking into the phone.I took a breath, stepped around her and looked into their bathroom.
My father was in his bathrobe, sitting in the empty tub, his legs hooked over the edge of the tub, feet dangling.(Later, it was surmised he had gone into the bathroom, thinking he would throw up; had sat on the edge of the tub; and had tumbled backwardsinto the empty tub when the heart attack hit).His eyes were shut, but he was making a chuck-chuck noise through his nose, a violent snuffling.His right arm rose in the air, as though one of the little coal-demons were yanking it upwards with thread.
Perhaps he was dying at the moment; perhaps it was a body in some sort of death throes.(I do not know and never asked.The doctors gave us the obligatory He-never-felt-a-thing, which I doubted even then).
My mother had called the ambulance.Perhaps she knew full well and did not want me to see.She told me to go out the front door and look for the ambulance.Which, to my relief and shame, I ran and did.
Neighbors, food, flowers, funeral.My parents had many friends, and the house was filled with flowers.To this day, I cannot abide the smell of flowers.
That was forty-one years ago.What to make of it this Father’s Day, for your benefit or mine?
Perhaps we only understand aspects of ourselves when we understand aspects of our fathers, and the latter understanding comes only with time.My time was ambered – that backwards-telescope problem – but now, with my own children, I can see my face in theirs and, more than ever before, Daddy’s face in mine.I appreciate, perhaps, what he might have been thinking about a job, a child, the future.
And perhaps we only look into a father’s face when enough time has passed to get us to the same age as he, so to speak: the same age as when something happened to you as a child, something critical or weird or shameful.I was afraid at his death, fearful watching it, impotent.No Boy Scout, me.Guilt at not doing something Boy Scout-like.Mouth-to-mouth?Some kind of pounding on his chest?Getting in the tub and holding him until he died?
Whatever it was I should have done, I failed to do it.
I believe the Gospel, and so I believe that he and I will meet again.Sometimes, over the years, I have been terrified that he will judge me for my failure, there in a dying man’s bathroom in 1973. What a judgment upon me that would be, would it not?
Yet now I am older than he was on that day, and the telescope seems to distort his memory less now than it did before.Peculiar, isn’t it?Now, when I fear his judgment, memory replays how my failure to close that window caused that Beetle to get stolen, and how he acted towards his child.
True, someone got their dune buggy out of it.All I got was love.
Happy Father’s Day.
[NOTE: this post was originally published in 2014 and has been updated]
I make a few suggestions here in Pain Management News:
That’s the question many physicians, nurse practitioners (NPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and physician assistants (PAs) are asking in the wake of a tidal wave of prosecutions related to pain medicine. This has been partly spurred on by the “opioid epidemic.” There has been a sharp spike in convictions—either by guilty plea or by conviction after a trial—of health care professionals involved in pain medicine.
The facts of each case are different, but the gist of each charge is that health care providers are operating a “pill mill,” where prescriptions are being provided “outside the usual course of medical practice” and “not for a legitimate medical purpose.” There also may be a charge that procedures or tests are not “medically necessary.”
Read the full article here, and our previous notes on related topics:
In speaking of the martini, Winston Churchill supposedly observed “I would like to observe the vermouth from across the room while I drink my martini.” Here is a recipe for a “Churchill martini,” which is basically a glass of cold gin.
Hammering the martinis.
On the other hand, Julia Child supposedly went to the opposite extreme: a glass filled with vermouth and topped with gin, also known in this recipe as an “upside down martini.”
I am no Churchill or Child, on several counts, but I have never understood the anti-vermouth wing of the martini party. A martini is a cocktail. A cocktail, by definition, is “an alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice or cream.” Ignore the “fruit juice or cream” modifier. The point is that a cocktail is a mixture of things, and a martini mixes gin with vermouth (by being stirred, one hopes, not shaken).
On the other hand, we can consider drinking vermouth by itself, a concept that does not offend because vermouth by itself does not call itself a “martini.”
Lettie Teague of the Wall Street Journal offers a thorough article on The Best Vermouths for Sipping. In particular, she notes the new drive towards drinking vermouth on its own, which is apparently the way that things started out:
A tall order, perhaps, but that’s how vermouth is usually consumed in Europe—not as a component in a Manhattan or martini, as in the U.S. Back in 1786, in Turin, Italy, Antonio Benedetto Carpano created vermouth to be sipped as an aperitif. He infused a white wine with herbs and spices, and it was an immediate hit, so popular that Turin cafes purportedly had to stay open day and night to meet the demand.
Such practices have a ways to go in the United States, but who knows?
Either way, Fred Astaire in 1943 was having none of it:
“Celery.” It sounds . . . English.
Bitters are now a “thing” again. (I like celery bitters with Plymouth or Death’s Door gin).
Bitters are made from botanicals, like aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and fruit. These ingredients are infused into a flavorless alcohol base to create a potent flavoring. You know how you add salt to almost everything you cook for that extra flavor boost? That’s sort of like what bitters do for cocktails.
There are all sorts of ways to use them in cocktails, and there is even a book about bitters. Originally, they were touted as having digestive and even medicinal properties. Dropped into gin, I have certainly found them so.
No matter how you take your martinis, if you are over-served, you may need a pot of black coffee (via Julie London (on “Around Midnight” (1960)):