Monday, January 21, 2013
Maybe the biggest surprise for those of you who have known me over the years is my increasing involvement with organized religion. It surprises me, for sure. Before I go on, allow me to note the critical difference between organized religion and religious belief. I may have succumbed to the lure of community, but I remain far removed from seeking salvation. An article in today's paper reinforces my attraction to organized religion. Reporting on the arrest of Monsignor Kevin Wallin, of Bridgeport, CT, the New York Times said, “Monsignor Wallin had been indicted on charges that he had been part of a cross-country drug ring, sold crystal meth and possibly laundered the profits through an adult sex toy and video shop he owned.” This gives new meaning to the term High Holidays.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
The inauguration of Barack Obama for a second term as President produced some important media commentary on this historic event. There was coverage of Beyoncé’s lip-synching the national anthem at the swearing-in ceremony and discussion of Al Green’s failure to appear and sing his hit “Let’s Stay Together,” the first song that the Obamas danced to at the inaugural ball. Combined with the analysis of Michelle Obama’s wardrobe and hairdo, the American people are now equipped to deal with the challenging problems of this complex world that lie ahead.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
11° when I approached the subway station this morning. I was not on my usual path, because I had to stop in to see doctor-lawyer-rabbi Morris Traube, my gastroenterologist. We both were in fine shape, although only one of us desisted from suggesting that the other lose weight. Actually, I’m acting on his advice immediately by getting a haircut right after work.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
I like language, even though as a descendant of the shtetls of Eastern Europe I rely quite a bit on grunts, poking and pointing to express myself. Without language, for instance, my devotion to crossword puzzles would rapidly diminish. Two near-simultaneous things stimulated my thoughts about language and wordplay, (1) an article in the New Yorker (12/24 & 31 issue) about an attempt to construct Ithkuil, a language with full semantic transparency; (2) the publication of Lawrence Wright’s book about Scientology, Going Clear.
Here’s what came out of the memory vault. In days of yore, in a land far, far away, I met a very talented computer programmer at a bridge game, and we soon decided to go into business together, designing and selling smallish (by the then-current standard) computers to smallish companies. I named our first venture Ellington Associates, tacitly in honor of Duke Ellington. I soon realized that the name had another reading. My then-current wife was named Ellen and my partner’s wife was named Ellie. So, I could reason that I embedded their names, without favor, into our enterprise. After a short time, Tom (my partner) and I decided to make a slight strategic change in our venture, and I came up with a new name, Theta Computer Systems. Even though I never joined a fraternity in college, I liked Greek letters, and Theta sounded right to me. Additionally, I developed a rationale for the name as “The Tom Alan Computer Systems.”
But, then it got interesting. I had forgotten that the one and only local cable television service for outlying areas of Los Angeles was named Theta Cable. This resulted in frequent telephone calls to us complaining about installation and reception problems. Eventually, we got used to this and actually welcomed telephone calls from anyone, since our customer base was (How shall I say?) not heavily populated. We’re getting to Tom Cruise, hold on.
I believed that some of our customers’ (there was really more than one) needs could be met by existing computer software, and I found one company that produced a set of sound business programs that we could reuse for a reasonable license fee, which would save us a lot of time and trouble and give our customers predictable results. This company was located nearby in Los Angeles and I arranged a meeting in order to negotiate a deal. When I was introduced to the management, bright people in their 30s, not unlike your reporter at the time, as the president of Theta Computer Systems, a glow seemed to emanate from the group. We had a fruitful session, strictly about the business software I wanted to license, and I imagined that the good vibes resulted from my endearing personality. Later, I learned that this crew were all Scientologists and theta and thetans are critical terms in their vocabulary. Cf. Wright supra. They thought that I might be a messenger from L. Ron Hubbard, the founder, still alive at the time, or at least a highly-placed member of their tribe.
In summation, two simple efforts to name a small enterprise in plain English (well, some Greek) can evoke kaleidoscopic linguistic exercises.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Blue suede shoes. I wore my brand-new blue suede shoes to work today. It wasn’t casual Friday. We don’t have casual Friday here, although sometimes I wish we did, because that would indicate that people are relatively well-dressed four other days each week. Our department has about 60 lawyers, slightly under half that number are male. Few, if any, of these men would be mistaken for associates at Lockhart & Gardner. On any given day, many give the appearance of taking a break from driving their taxi. I am confident in asserting that I am consistently the second best-dressed man in the department. My officemate Michael takes the top spot. Each day, Michael wears a conservatively-cut dark suit with shirt and tie. No Nehru jackets for him. His shirts are either white or striped. He eschews the lovely plaids and checks that the British do so well. Unlike many of our colleagues, he dresses like a lawyer, a well-dressed lawyer, not a disheveled defendant. Even though we spend most of our time at our desks doing research and writing, unseen by the public or the bar, I believe that we should appear to spend a tiny fraction of our middle-class income on clothes, or at least dry cleaning.