When lawyers get their comeuppance

Ain’t it a grand and glorious feeling?

by Briggs

I know some really good, decent, and ethical attorneys. At least two. But it’s always nice to experience that warm glow of Schadenfreude when you see the firm of Dewey, Cheetham,and Howe get a well-deserved comeuppance.

“Following [Mad] magazine’s parody of the film The Empire Strikes Back, a letter from George Lucas’s lawyers arrived in Mad’s offices demanding that the issue be recalled for infringement on copyrighted figures. The letter further demanded that the printing plates be destroyed, and that Lucasfilm must receive all revenue from the issue plus additional punitive damages. Unbeknownst to Lucas’ lawyers, Mad had received a letter weeks earlier from Lucas himself, expressing delight over the parody and calling artist Mort Drucker and writer Dick DeBartolo “the Leonardo da Vinci and George Bernard Shaw of comic satire.” Publisher Bill Gaines made a copy of Lucas’ letter, added the handwritten notation “Gee, your boss George liked it!” across the top, and mailed it to the lawyers. Said DeBartolo, “We never heard from them again.”

Wikipedia

When I learned of this, I was reminded of the “fangs-down” letter Gary Larson received about his “Doing a little more research with that Jane Goodall tramp?” cartoon. Turns out Ms. Goodall thought the cartoon was a crackup, and it was eventually published in National Geographic’s centennial edition. (Documented in Gary Larson’s The Pre-History of the Far Side.)

Gary Larson

Then there was Beasley Allen, a Montgomery-based law firm that filed a class-action lawsuit against Taco Bell alleging their taco filling did not meet the minimum USDA qualifications to be called “beef.” Beasely Allen later dropped the suit, pointing to “changes in marketing and product disclosure” by Taco Bell.

“Bullmeat,” said Taco Bell, and published the following full-page ad in USA Today:

Beasley Allen never apologized. But law firms are not known for that little social nicety.

Back in 2015 I had my own brush with infamy (and some satisfaction), when a legal firm in Washington, DC sent me a Cease and Desist letter for supposedly maligning the manufacturer of a worthless weight-loss product called “Pro Bio-Slim.” The gory details are still around as an earlier post in this blog; I pointed out all the flaws in the request and 5 years later have yet to receive any sort of follow-up from the attorneys in question.

Like I said, you can find good attorneys out there if you turn over enough rocks. Many are, in the words of Herman Melville,

“… one of those unambitious lawyers who never addresses a jury, or in any way draws down public applause; but in the cool tranquility of a snug retreat, do a snug business among rich men’s bonds and mortgages and title-deeds.”

Melville, Herman, “Bartleby the Scrivener,” 1856

I’m grateful for legal services rendered throughout my lifetime, all the while trying to avoid the necessessity. But because the world of law is largely a world of confrontation and hostilities, the profession seems to attract a surfeit of thermonuclear douchebags, and it’s always heart-warming to see one or a number of these (the collective noun is “a litigation of attorneys”)¹ get taken to the social cleaners.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Footnotes:

¹ Not to be taken seriously. Some others are:

  • A descent of relatives
  • A windbag of politicians (I have my own, but it’s not suitable for a family-friendly blog
  • A groan of puns

And a list, comprehensive but not complete, of these fanciful collective nouns can be found here.

Old pages

It used to be that anything that was on the Internet lasted forever. Sometimes that’s true – the Streisand Effect makes sure that when people do their best to scrub things from the web, they are replicated and hosted in multiple places, so that the Wayback Machine (a part of the Internet Archive) can grab them.

The more Xi tried to suppress this image and ones like it, the more widespread they became.

On the other hand, the advent of robots.txt and other devices ensured that archive copies of some websites were never grabbed, and that’s a shame. But a lot of pages, even if they become obsolete, are still available.

The oldest page on the “World Wide Web,” a term that is about as common these days as NCSA Mosaic, is this one; the earliest screen capture was taken in 1992.

I ran across this picture from September 2008 in my Livejournal:

It linked to a quiz at NerdTests.com, which I was pleased to note still exists. How geeky are you?

A list of websites created before 1995 can be found at Wikipedia, for further perusal.

The Million Dollar Homepage was one of those flashes of inspiration that came to someone who was in the right place at the right time. Once an idea like this is done, it can’t ever be successfully replicated. Kinda like “The Princess Bride.”

The Net is a strange and wonderful place, a rabbit hole with no perceptible bottom. But if you surf diligently enough, you can actually get to the end.

Of course, if you’re a manager you can always have one of your peons print the Internet out for you. ¹

OK, Boss, here’s Volume 1 of 16,384:

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹ Dilbert was a lot funnier in earlier years. It’s gotten pretty stale and repetitive. If you ask me, it’s time to retire him.

Can I afford pie today?

I loved comics as a kid. No shame, I learned a lot. Loved things like Strange Tales, Creepy, Weird Science, along with the standard DC and Marvel fare.¹ And over the years, some things just stuck in my mind. Tales like “Tim Boo Baa,” “The Mask of Morgumm,” or “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill.” Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I’ve been able to recover quite a few of these and revisit them in all their glory.

But there was one memory I was never able to recapture, although it popped into my mind frequently… until this week.

It was about this poor inventor, Alphonse Orr, who was taken advantage of by a hideous, bullying con-man of a boss. Finally his name popped up in a comic database, and I was able to score a copy of the issue that the story appeared in.

I was ten when this comic went on sale in 1961, and somehow that last panel, the image of this little man wondering if he could afford pie impacted me profoundly,² as did the idea of the injustice perpetrated upon him by his evil boss – and stuck in my mind for over half a century. Kids have an over-developed sense of injustice at that age, and I was no exception.³

So you’ll pardon me if I found the ending to the story immensely satisfying, and re-reading it after all these years I find that my feelings haven’t changed one whit.

You can read the entire story from “Forbidden Worlds, Issue #98 here as a pdf download.⁴

It’s nice to be able to put memories to rest.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Notes:

¹ I could have put my kids through college if I had kept all the first editions I bought, but that’s another story.

² Never mind all the abject poverty and true starvation and famine in the world; at that age I was not aware of what was happening in third-world countries or even of food insecurity in America, but at that time the thought that Alphonse was so poor that he couldn’t afford pie deeply saddened me.

³ Those impressions have never left me. I have found that when it comes to the injustice and cruelty and stupidity of corporations, there’s always a relevant Dilbert.

Strips like this infuriate me. I’m not sure why I keep reading them.

Edit: If you do read this story, keep in mind that it’s the ’60s and that it’s fantasy; the Challenger Deep is 6.85 miles below the surface, whereas Edgar W. Simmons claims to have taken his new submersible 120 miles down. Just as a matter of curiosity, the pressure at that hypothetical depth would be 19,259.37 atmospheres, or 250,371 pounds per square inch, or roughly 42 Humvees stacked on your thumbnail. Science? We don’t need no steenkin’ science!

Ripley’s Believe It or Not – The “Eye Smoker”

Alfred Langevin, the “Eye Smoker”

The miracle of the Internet allows one these days to do a deep dive into the oddities of humanity, and many of Robert Ripley’s stories can be either verified, clarified, or debunked. I was an inveterate consumer of Ripley’s collections as a youth, and this particular item always intrigued me. As it turns out, this story happens to be entirely accurate, as documented at Human Marvels.

Included at the link is a video that shows the late Mr. Langevin demonstrating his odd talent.

Science Source - Artwork of a cross-section through a human skull
Cross-section of a human skull

A lot of the human skull is empty space, and as you can see from the above illustration, there’s a very small partition between the sinuses and the orbits of the eye. All it would take is a small malformation or injury to either the skull or the nasolacrymal duct to connect the eye with the sinuses, and Bob’s your uncle.

Determination: Believe it!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Ripley’s Believe It or Not – Premature Aging

THE BOY WHO DIED OF OLD AGE BEFORE HE WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD

Cross-posted from Livejournal

THIS strange anomaly of an aged youth attracted considerable attention during the last century. He was Charles Charlesworth, born of normal parents in Staffordshire, England, March 14, 1829. He reached maturity and grew whiskers at the age of four and died suddenly in a faint (syncope) when but seven years old.

Charlesworth was of small stature and proportions, and with imperfectly developed clavicles, lower jaw, and membrane bones of the skull. His face was wizened, hair and whiskers white, skin shriveled, hands knotted with conspicuous veins and tendons, voice piping, and gait and standing posture those of an old man.

Ref.: “Progeria” and “Premature Senility” in any Medical Text Book.


Progeria is now a well-known and well-understood phenomenon, although there is no known cure. It was not described until 1886 by Jonathan Hutchinson and independently in 1897 by Hastings Gilford, after which it was named Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome (HGPS). In 2003, it was discovered that progeria caused by a point mutation in position 1824 of the LMNA gene, replacing cytosine with thymine, creating a form of the Lamin A protein which cannot be processed properly and accumulates in the cell nucleus. Lamin A is a major structural protein of the human cell nucleus. When Lamin A is altered, it affects the shape and the function of the nuclear envelope. These changes cause other cells to die prematurely. (see Progeria at Wikipedia.)

One other famous case of accelerated aging was also documented by Ripley in a later series. His description, accompanied by one of his own illustrations, was lifted almost verbatim from the Huntingdon, PA “Daily News” of 25 September 1830:

Clarence was also written up in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette of September 27, 1830 (this photo also appeared in Charles Addams’ Dear Dead Days (Putnam, 1959, p. 18)

Time Magazine of Monday, Oct. 06, 1930 described the event in these words:

At Toledo, Clarence Kehr Jr., 6, standing 4 ft. I in., weighing 87 lb., was barred from both public and Catholic schools because he has a bass voice, smokes, has to shave, is as strong as a grown man. He can lift persons bulking 250 lb., 200-lb. dumbbells, can push without strain a lawn roller, or an automobile filled with passengers. Prime stunt: lifting Jack Dempsey when Dempsey scaled 202 lb. Born normal, Clarence Jr. continued so until 9 mos. old. Between 9 mos. and 3½ years he grew ten years physically in all things except height. When 4½ he was physically 14½, at 6 he is 16. He has no use for girls his own age, prefers them 16 or older.

Doctors attribute his precocity to some defect in his pineal gland. This ductless gland, apparently the rudiment of a third eye,* lies in among the interior folds of the brain. Its functions are not well understood. One thing it certainly does is to inhibit sexual development of children. Because all the ductless glands of the body delicately control and balance one another’s forces, when one acts abnormally as in Clarence Kehr’s case, or in Harold Arnold’s case (see col. 2), it incites a physiological riot. Clarence Kehr’s parents plan to appeal to Ohio’s State Board of Education. Meanwhile he is being tutored privately.

*In some lizards and other reptiles and in the larva of the lamprey, the pineal gland is on a stalk (like a crayfish’s eyes) and is near the top of the head. Here it has a distinguishable retina and lens. French Philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) believed: “There is a small gland [the pineal] in the brain in which the soul exercises its functions more particularly than in the other parts.” Contemporaries agreed.

It appears that Kehr was not a victim of progeria – Psych Web Resources describes Kehr’s case in this manner:

Accelerated aging can also be produced by hormonal imbalance, as shown by the case of Clarence Kehr. This illustration is from a 1931 article in American Psychologist titled, “A clinical study of ‘Toledo’s Strong Boy'” (McClure & Goldberg, 1931). It reports “the strange case of Clarence Kehr, Jr., who skipped from the cradle to adolescence in physical development.” Clarence, shown at age 6, is in the middle of the photograph, with his brother and sister on either side.

Toledo’s Strong Boy” (from McClure & Goldberg, 1931)

Clarence’s development was radically accelerated. He was able to lift his mother off the floor at the age of 5. He had prominent muscles, a mustache, and a baritone voice at age 6.

Clarence was proud of his weight-lifting abilities. He boasted of being the strongest boy in the world. He did not associate with other children, preferring “to do the same things that older people do.” His mustache began to appear when he was 11 months old. By the age of 4, his sexual development was the same as a 14-year-old boy, and he was interested in girls.

X-ray studies revealed that Clarence, at age 6, had bone structure typical of a sixteen to eighteen year old. At the time the article was written, Clarence’s parents were trying to work out a program of private instruction for him. Mentally, he was a normal 6 year old with average or below-average academic abilities. For example, he could not copy a diamond pattern, or verbally describe a picture, both standard items for 7-year-olds on the 1930 Stanford-Binet IQ test.

Verdict: Believe it!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The temperatures of Sake

Inspired by a facebook post from a friend of mine, a translator and long-time resident of Japan.

Disclaimer: I’ve been teetotal since 1969 and have no personal experience of sake, other than it smells divine to me. If I were a drinker, I would love to sample sake in all its many permutations.

One thing to note: the Japanese word sake (酒) encompasses all types of liquor. The official word for the fermented rice wine that is under consideration here is 日本酒 (nihonshu), literally “Japanese liquor.”

What is the difference between "Hot Warm", "Nuru Warm" and "Kami-Kan"?  [Basic knowledge of sake]

From a Japanese article about basic understanding of sake:

One of the charms of Japanese sake is that it can be tasted at a wide range of temperatures, from cold to warm. In fact, sake changes its fragrance and taste depending on the temperature. For example, when cooled, the fragrance becomes gorgeous, and the mouth feel becomes sharp. In addition, the umami¹ becomes lighter and the alcoholic sensation may be less. On the other hand, warming spreads the scent, makes the mouth feel mellow, increases umami, and spreads the sweetness. In this way, the same liquor has completely different aromas and flavors depending on the temperature. If you understand this, you will be able to know at what temperature to drink depending on the type of sake.

The above screen capture shows the various temperatures at which sake can be served. From the same Japanese website linked above, a key to understanding:

熱 (Netsu) – Hot temperatures

55° C (131° F)
飛び切り燗
tobikiri-kan (extra hot)

50° C (122° F)
熱燗
atsu-kan (hot)

45° C (113° F)
上燗
jōkan (warm)

温 (Yutaka) – Warm temperatures

40° C (104° F)
ぬる燗
nuru-kan (lukewarm – literally “slimy hot”)

35° C (95° F)
人肌燗
hitohada-kan (human skin warm)

30° C (86° F)
日向燗
hinata-kan (sunny warm)

常温 (jōon) – Normal temperature

20° C (68° F)
前後 冷や
zengo hiya (almost cold)

冷 (hiya) – Cold temperatures

15° C (59° F)
涼冷え
suzubie (cool)

10° C (50° F)
花冷え
hanabie (flower cold)

5° C (41° F)
雪冷え
yukibie (snow cold)

Other charts include other temperatures, and there may be still more that I’m not aware of:

-10° C (-10° F)

mizore (sleet cold)

A simple search on the internet for facts about sake will turn up encyclopedic volumes of information, guides, suggestions, and opinions about the various kinds of sake, how they are to be served, what rituals to observe and in what circumstances, what temperature they are best enjoyed at, which foods various kinds of sake should be served with, and on and on to the lemniscate – clearly the oenophiles and beer afficionados have their enthusiastic Japanese counterparts.

For myself, I won’t be able to explore all of these wondrous variations in this life, but if you can, I hope that you find great joy in the exploration.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


¹umami is often referred to as the “fifth taste,” along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Meaning essentially “savoriness” in Japanese, according to Merriam-Webster, “umami can be experienced in foods such as mushrooms, anchovies, and mature cheeses, as well as in foods enhanced with monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a sodium salt derived from glutamic acid.”

Booty from Christmas Past

Cross-posted from Livejournal

Booty!

Shut up, you deviants. I mean Jack Sparrow-type booty. Arr…

In 2010, a chest o’treasure arrived in me mailbox from a pretty wench in a far-off land. A whole bundle of silly, fun things: most useful, all appreciated.

The tie was the most interesting of all. To look at, it’s just a nice Christmas-themed cravat (since I only have one other, this will be a fine addition next Yule season.) But on closer examination, there are bits and snatches of words running through the candy canes.

I could tell the writing extended through the candy canes onto the blue background, but it was impossible to see in normal light, especially with the reflection from the shiny silk. So I scanned it, hoping to bring out a bit of detail.

With a little contrast and gamma manipulation, I was able to get the words to come out a bit more (this is just a small section, and my working image was much larger):

What jumped out at me was “The Christmas Joy”, “around the year”, “spot”, and “frozen”. Doing a Google search on these words came up with one – and only one – hit, a poorly-scanned copy of Down Durley Lane and Other Ballads by Virginia Woodward Cloud, published in 1898(!), and illustrated by Reginald Bathurst Birch which included this poem, “Old Christmas”:

It’s a long way round the year, my dears,
A long way round the year.
I found the frost and flame, my dears,
I found the smile and tear!

The wind blew high on the pine-topp’d hill.
And cut me keen on the moor:
The heart of the stream was frozen still,
As I tapped at the miller’s door.

I tossed them holly in hall and cot,
And bade them right good cheer,
But stayed me not in any spot,
For I’d traveled around the year

To bring the Christmas joy, my dears,
To your eyes so bonnie and true;
And a mistletoe bough for you, my dears,
A mistletoe bough for you!

What a delightful, hidden, and serendipitous message!

Miraculous it was that these words were even clear in the transcription, because it was a raw optical-conversion, and much of the text came out as garbage. What’s more, Virginia Woodward Cloud is a rather obscure poet, not unlike Grace Noll Crowell, (whose works I had hunted for over a period of 40 years, only having success last year thanks to another deep internet search). So the odds of finding one of Cloud’s poems on a Christmas tie are pretty slim.

A bit more digging found a beautiful online, zoomable copy of the book – “Old Christmas” is on page 99.

And all this because I gave the wench a stale crust of bread…

The Old Wolf has spoken

The Dangers of Reading

The following is a translation of an extract from the Library and National Archives of Quebec (BAnQ). Visit the site for the full article with images (in French).

On February 20, 1902, coroner Charles Alphonse Dubé met with several witnesses at Notre-Dame-du-Rosaire in the Pontiac district. He wanted  to determine the cause of the death of Mrs. Evelina d’Aragon, found dead in bed. After investigation, he concluded that the latter committed suicide by taking a dose of strychnine “in a moment of insanity.”

In his statement  to the jury, Dr. Dubé, who was well acquainted with Madame d’Aragon, declared that she left to her husband, Alfred-Saint-Louis, a note which read: “Dear Alfred, now free. Your taste for the bottle, your first companion, will satisfy you. Evelina.  Although these words suggest that Mrs. d’Aragon, who was pregnant at the time, committed suicide because of her husband’s alcoholic addictions, Dr. Dubé believed that the reason is quite different.

In order to demonstrate that Ms. d’Aragon was not in full possession of her mental faculties at the time of her death, he stated that she suffered from exalted and romantic ideas that she had certainly acquired by reading many novels.  Dr. Dubé affirmed that:  “There is nothing in the world to distort judgment, and to exalt the imagination like the reading of these novels, where everything tends to excite intelligence and lead to a false interpretation of ordinary things of life.

So watch yourselves out there, those penny dreadfuls will rot your brain. {heavy sarcasm}

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Sports that you won’t find in the Olympics

Saw this on imgur and started thinking about the kinds of events that many wish would be Olympic sports, but probably never will be.

Looks like America’s winning this one

On the other hand, Eqeruutijuk looks even more painful although less likely to result in CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or repetitive concussion injury):

But you might end up looking like the Joker…

Rugby or Gaelic Football are there for anyone who would rather get into a dust-up than score points:

“We must introduce this lovely game in France!”

But everything’s relative. Italy’s Calcio Storico, a mashup of football, rugby, and MMA, makes Rugby look like a day at the Ding Dong School.

Players compete during the final match of the Calcio Storico Fiorentino traditional 16th Century Renaissance ball game, on Piazza Santa Croce in Florence on June 24, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / FILIPPO MONTEFORTE

Probably not sports I’ll be going out for any time soon.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Elementary, my dear Watson. Or perhaps not.

Having recently re-watched the first Holmes movie with Robert Downey, Jr. and having devoured “Sherlock” with Benedict Cumberbatch some time before, I put out a poll to my Facebook circle of friends: Which Holmes did you like best?

Despite being only 4 days in, Mr. Cumberbatch leads by an overwhelming margin of 24 to 4… but the comments at the poll indicated that there were others who might have fared even better. So I went digging and found as many Sherlocks as I could see (and I may have missed a few in spite of it all, although I suspect these are perhaps the best known); I was astonished to see how many superb actors undertook the iconic rôle, but given the excellence of their craft it was understandable.

I present them here for your gratuitous viewing pleasure.

Who do you think did the best Holmes? Do your homework. There will be a quiz (actually, it’s the poll at the end.)

Viggo Larsen
Sherlock Holmes i Livsfare 
1908

Alwin Neuß
Sherlock Holmes
1908

Henry Arthur Saintsbury
The Valley of Fear
1916

Eille Norwood
The Yellow Face
1921

John Barrymore
Sherlock Holmes
1922

Clive Brook
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
1929

Arthur Wontner
Sherlock Holmes Fatal Hour
1931

Raymond Massey
The Speckled Band
1931

Reginald Owen
A Study in Scarlet
1933

Bruno Güttner
The Hound of the Baskervilles
1937

Louis Hector
The Three Garridebs
1937

Basil Rathbone
The Hound of the Baskervilles
1939
Probably the most definitive Holmes of my parents’ generation

Alan Napier
The Speckled Band
1949

Alan Wheatley
Sherlock Holmes
1951

Ronald Howard
Sherlock Holmes
1954

Peter Cushing
The Hound of the Baskervilles
1959

Christopher Lee
Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace
1962

Douglas Wilmer
Detective
1964

John Neville
A Study in Terror
1965

Robert Stephens
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes
1970

Radovan Lukavský
Touha Sherlocka Holmese
1971

Stewart Granger
The Hound of the Baskervilles
1972

John Cleese
Comedy Playhouse;
Elementary, My Dear Watson:
The Strange Case of the Dead Solicitors

1973

Leonard Nimoy
The Interior Motive – Stage Play
1975

Roger Moore
Sherlock Holmes in New York
1976

Nicol Williamson
The Seven Percent Solution
1976

Christopher Plummer
The Sunday Drama
1977

Vasiliy Livanov
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson:
The Acquaintance
1980

Tom Baker
The Hound of the Baskervilles Series
1982

Guy Henry
Young Sherlock: The Mystery of the Manor House
1982

Peter O’Toole
Burbank films, Animated
1983

Ian Richardson
The Hound of the Baskervilles
1983

Jeremy Brett
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
1984
By far the most popular suggestion from my poll-takers.

Nicholas Rowe
Young Sherlock Holmes
1985

Brent Spiner
TNG “Elementary, Dear Data”
1988

Michael Caine
Without a Clue
1988

Michael Pennington
The Return of Sherlock Holmes
1989

Anthony Higgins
Sherlock Holmes Returns
1993

Matt Frewer
The Hound of the Baskervilles
2000
A good fit for Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time-traveling con-man in Star Trek. As Holmes? Not so much.

Joaquim de Almeida
The Xango from Baker Street
2001

James D’Arcy
Sherlock
2002

Richard Roxburgh
The Hound of the Baskervilles
2002

Rupert Everett
Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking
2004

Jonathan Pryce
Sherlock Holmes and the Baker Street Irregulars
2007

Robert Downey, Jr.
Sherlock Holmes
2009
Perfect Holmes for the Guy Richie vehicle;
Jude Law was a great Watson as well.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Sherlock
2010
You could not ask for a more exquisite “high-functioning sociopath.”

Ben Syder
Sherlock Holmes
2010

Jonny Lee Miller
Elementary
2012

Gary Piquer
Holmes & Watson. Madrid Days
2012

Igor Petrenko
Sherlock Holmes; Russian series
2013

Kōichi Yamadera
Sherlock Holmes
2014

Ian McKellen
Mr. Holmes
2015

Yoshimitsu Tagasuki
Shisha no teikoku
2015

Will Ferrell
Holmes and Watson
2018
Perhaps the most maligned Holmes outside of Matt Frewer,
but this film was not intended to be taken seriously.

So now, you must choose. But choose… wisely.

The Old Wolf has spoken, and will be interested to see the results.