Has-beens Cash In?

July 28, 2009

Attorney Megan Jones is representing plaintiffs in a class action suit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association in which Ed O’Bannon, the former UCLA power forward who won his team the NCAA Championship in 1995, is the main plaintiff.

The rest of the class members are also former NCAA athletes who are suing in the Northern District of California to recover money made from their images being used in video games. Normally, adults who played sports as college students are not allowed to be compensated for their playing.

Ms. Jones believes the case may take up to two years to settle but may eventually fetch tens of millions of dollars in damages.

Ms. Jones, left, with Dr. Seuss character.

Ms. Jones, left, with Dr. Seuss character.

Lawyers Beat Russians

July 21, 2009

Litigation giant Patton Boggs took up the case of American lawyer Emanuel Zelster shortly after Mr. Zelster, an expert on Russian organized crime, was detained by the Belarusian KGB. While detained, Mr. Zelster was denied medical care for his heart condition.

After more than a year behind Russian bars, lawyers Tommy Boggs and Joe Brand have secured a full pardon for Mr. Zelster. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has also absolved Mr. Zelster of all charges against him, including espionage. Mr. Zelster, before being imprisoned, had worked as General Counsel to the American Russian Law Institute, an organization dedicated to bringing the rule of law to Russia and which is often opposed by Russian organized crime.

Patton Boggs attorney Joe Brand.

Patton Boggs attorney Joe Brand.

Frank McCourt: 1930-2009

July 20, 2009

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, whose body of work includes Angela’s Ashes, Tis, and Teacher Man, died yesterday, Sunday, at age 78 of cancer in Manhattan.

Until his mid-60’s, Mr. McCourt was an amusement on the fringes of the New York literary scene: a beloved storyteller and entertainer, he worked as a creative writing teacher in the city’s public school system and was a fixture at The White Horse Tavern and other hangouts of the bookish set.

After retiring from the classroom in 1996, Mr. McCourt published Angela’s Ashes,  which tells the story of his life, starting with his impoverished Irish roots, and for which he was given the Pulitzer Prize. As the author puts it in his novel’s celebrated preamble:  “Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”

“F. Scott Fitzgerald said there are no second acts in American lives,” Mr. McCourt once noted. “I think I’ve proven him wrong. And all because I refused to settle for a one-act existence, the 30 years I taught English in various New York City high schools.”

Frank McCourt, right, with brother Malachy.

Frank McCourt, right, with brother Malachy.

Against the Current

July 18, 2009

In top-notch collegiate and professional rowing, rowers can bring an oar in and out of the water as many as 45 times every minute. The sport is one of the oldest and most demanding in America, not to mention the rest of the world, and requires extraordinary dedication.

Dartmouth College men's crew, Connecticut River.

Dartmouth College men's crew, Connecticut River.

2009 has seen its share of notable regattas: American oarsmen finished in the top five (of 37 teams) in Lucerne, Switzerland at the third World Cup regatta; the 138th U.S. Rowing National Championships were held in June on Mercer Lake in New Jersey; the University of Washington’s men’s team placed first at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championships this year; and in May, Stanford’s women’s rowers won the sport’s NCAA championship.

Few Americans noticed. Despite being the oldest collegiate sport (pre-dating football by over a decade), rowing garners barely a second on ESPN highlight reels; sportscasters are largely unaware American university teams won gold medals at eight consecutive Olympic games, boasting crews of mainly Yale and Naval Academy men. The most well-known American race, Boston’s Head of the Charles Regatta, draws about 300,000 viewers yearly. Hardly Superbowl numbers. 

It’s only-semi-deserved elitist image has kept would-be rowers at a distance, many say. Also, demands of the sport are high: almost 90% of college rowers quit, owing in large part to the tremendous time commitment the sport requires. Both factors keep converts at bay and a lid on the sport’s public draw. “It’s almost like it’s this closet subculture,” says Kate Sullivan, a trustee of the Riverside Boat Club, one of the country’s oldest private rowing clubs, of the sport’s perceived exclusivity. “On the one hand, it’s too bad. Then again, it isn’t.”

Knock Their Socks Off

July 15, 2009

The below article appeared in Time magazine in 1966.

“The overall effect,” explains Lloyd Chiswick, 27, a Stanford University senior, “is studied but complete nonchalance.” Says a Princeton junior: “The whole thing is wrapped up in coolness, in both senses of the word.” They were talking about the most widespread fad on U.S. campuses, which is not to wear socks—not with sneakers, loafers, sandals or even brogues.

At Harvard, going sockless is to the “preppy-clubby” set what the armless sweatshirt is to the athletic crowd. Northwestern Student Leader Skip Mylenski wouldn’t have thought of attending the homecoming dance at Chicago’s Edgewater Beach Hotel any way but bare-ankled. Columbia University students skip the hose for Manhattan theater dates, and at Berkeley, when Theta Delta Chi threw a party, nearly all of the brothers turned up sockless. Maintains Theta Delt David Greenlee, 20: “When you walk down Telegraph among all the beatniks, and you’re wearing a pullover sweater and Daks and no socks, it shows a relaxed attitude.”

Provocative Hairs:

Nobody knows just where or when the fad first began. Easterners say that it started in the West; students at U.C.L.A., one of the few schools where the fad has not caught on, insist that “it looks like it came from New York.” There is a suspicion that thousands of students have taken it up for no other reason than that their socks are in the laundry bag.

Some now defend the fashion on esthetic grounds. “You have this break between your pants and your shoes,” explains a Los Angeles display artist. “Two textures. Why ruin it by sticking a third texture in between?” Others now give the trend Havelock Ellis overtones, agreeing, as one Californian puts it, that “hairs on the ankle look provocative.” Some girls agree. “It looks sexy,” says Rosalie Netter, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. “You can see the bone structure, like finely chiseled stone,” says Wisconsin Sophomore Karen Knauf.

Cultural Leftover:

If anything could kill the look on campus, of course, it would be the news that adults are doing it too. West German Playboy Gunter Sachs, it was noted, married Brigitte Bardot in Las Vegas last summer with his socks off, and already there are signs of backlash. “Socklessness is a cultural leftover,” fumes one Princetonian. Sock sales are even rising in some areas. Still, as the first snowstorms swirled across the Midwest last week the purists were standing fast. “If I could get a pair of lined desert boots,” said one, thinking onward in Wisconsin, “maybe I could get by all year without socks.”

The Company He Keeps

July 14, 2009

The essay below deals with college fraternities as described in Nicholas Syrett’s book The Company He Keeps and was originally published in The Dartmouth Review by Jared W. Zelski in 2009. It is reprinted here, somewhat abridged for space but hopefully not much worse off for the butchering.

Fraternities—bastions of masculinity that educe prestige and respect—have always served the same purpose: to confer status and regard upon members, not as students or individuals, but as males in the purest sense. The context of fraternities may change over time, but the point is the same: “Many factors—class, race, religiosity, sexuality, athleticism, recklessness—contribute to particular versions of masculinity at different times, but the end result is the same: some men are considered more masculine than others…”

Phi Delta Theta, Dartmouth College.

Phi Delta Theta, Dartmouth College.

The fight over who is most “manly,” as a 19th century student would say, inevitably results in tensions between those who exert the characteristic and those who feel threatened by competition; and since fraternal masculinity is only cultivated by means of exclusion, relationships between Greek members and outsiders have been sometimes strained. Until recently, fraternities were largely a means of cementing middle and upper class status, whiteness and Protestantism being the two main requisites for membership.

Fraternity brothers define their masculinity in terms of what they are not. For instance, poor people, women, minorities, and homosexuals have all, at some point, served as foils. “A man was the opposite of a boy, and fraternity men were often very eager to define themselves as men.” This quest has become institutionalized in Greek houses, who “self-consciously valorize heterosexual behavior.” This affirmation of manliness has had negative effects on outsiders, yet at the same time, it has also produced some of the most successful people. Fraternity culture has bred a disproportionate number of senators, congressmen, and presidents.

The founding of fraternities dates back to 1825 at Union College, where students formed secret societies named for Greek letters. By the 1850’s, secret societies had surfaced all over New England campuses to assert student autonomy over faculty. The founders of these societies chose Greek letters because most of them were students of ancient Greek classics: “to be Greek was to hearken back to the ancients, to the ideals of the founding of Western Civilization.”

Fraternities during the 1800’s were largely academic, fostering robust debate among members. Potential members saw two main reasons for joining – “literary pursuits” and “camaraderie” – although one’s “oratorical skill” was considered one of several “prerequisites for manliness.” in the early 19th century, “college students valued intelligence as one of the elements of a properly enacted masculinity, but believed it should come naturally or, at the very least, be cultivated in privacy.” The classic archetype of the Dartmouth man is in this belief – one intellectually superior yet both “outdoorsy” and “rough.”

Watering Holes: Maker’s Mark Distillery

July 9, 2009

The Maker’s Mark Distillery

Loretto, Kentucky

The place where the Samuels family distills Maker’s Mark bourbon whisky (the company spells the spirit the Scottish way, sans “e”) is an old wood-frame distillery in Loretto, Kentucky which looks like a barn, built by architect George Burks in 1889. Near the distillery is the old Quart House, where customers used to come re-fill their quart bottles.

Maker's Mark distillery, Loretto, Kentucky.

Maker's Mark distillery, Loretto, Kentucky.

When T.W. (Bill) Samuels, Sr. bought the property around 1950, it had lain dormant for years.  Samuels, a sixth-generation Kentucky distiller, set about rehabbing the old building and getting it into shape to turn out his dream, a small-batch Kentucky bourbon known for its smooth and easy taste. His new bourbon’s tag line: “It tastes expensive… and is.”

Maker's Mark bourbon, aging.

Maker's Mark bourbon, aging.

The distillery refurbishing underway, Samuels began to build his bourbon but soon ran up against reality: because aging just one batch of bourbon can take six years, he didn’t have time to distill, test, taste, and select from different recipes. Samuels’ solution: he and his wife, Marjorie, baked loaves of bread, each containing the exact grain content of a different proposed Maker’s Mark recipe, and asked neighbors to taste each loaf; the bread judged best-tasting would be the model for Samuels’ bourbon, which would be distilled with the exact proportions of grain found in that loaf. The winner: a bread made with barley and red winter wheat, instead of rye. In keeping with tradition, Samuels celebrated his new distillation by burning his family’s 170-year old bourbon recipe.

The first bottle of Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon whisky was sold in 1958 and featured the company’s trademarked red wax seal. In 1974, the distillery was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1980 it became a National Historic Landmark. Today it sits along Kentucky’s historic Bourbon Trail. It is one of the few distilleries left to rotate barrels between high and low shelves during the aging process to take advantage of the differences in temperature found at each altitude.

While not technically a “watering hole,” the distillery does offer tours which include a stop in the sampling room.