Ukraine

I have worked with several Russian law firms which deal with intellectual property. This morning, I sent a note to some of my Russian counterparts. I could have been a bit more strident but the message is still there.

Dear Colleagues,

I recently retired from the practice of law – though you will likely recognize my name given our association over the last 35 years.

I have tremendous respect for you, your fine Firm and for your colleagues.  I thought I would offer a comment on the tragedy that is unfolding in Europe. . . . .

I am saddened by the Russian invasion of and war against Ukraine and its people.  Vladimir Putin is sending missiles and bombs into Ukrainian homes, apartments, schools and businesses.  Men, women and children of Ukraine have been killed.  And now, many sons of Russia are also dying.  And the world sits on the brink of devastation. 

Putin is the richest man in the world – who has stolen billions of dollars, euros and rubles from the Russian people (many of whom – as you know – are poor and struggling).  He alone made the decision to commit Russia to War. Ukraine defends itself.  The world objects.  Humanity cries tears of sorrow.  Even though free speech and civil discourse are forbidden in Russia, tens of thousands of Russian people are objecting – demonstrating for peace. Russian athletes and academics have joined the chorus.

Please know that I am with those – who want peace in this world.  We are all one people.  And we are all in one giant boat.   Together.  We must be able to “get along” with each other – or our boat will sink.  And then each one of us – loses. 

Best regards,

Scott

The business of wanting peace, being in one boat and the need to “get along” applies as much to the United States as it does to Russia. It applies to every nation. And each one of us. Let’s all try to remember that as we discuss politics, religion, social issues and direction. . . . .

Creamed Spinach – Redux

I had a surprising number of comments to my post on “Creamed Spinach.” The dish was dubbed a “favorite” by some. One friend suggested using a special brand of hydroponic spinach (grown in water – no soil – often indoors – no stems) from Wegmans (a supermarket chain out east). Another suggested adding other vegetables, an egg and parmesan cheese to the mix. Some spoke of the Chicago restaurant icons where the best creamed spinach is served. Those mentioned include The Berghoff (a favorite for me when I worked downtown) which adds a teaspoon of chicken bouillon, two teaspoons of flour and a pinch of nutmeg. Then there was the old Red Star Inn (which closed in 1983) where Johnny the Waiter – in a black tux – would serve you on the second floor. Two other honorable mentions were E.J.’s and Landl’s in Skokie.

The friend who suggested adding other “frozen vegetables” got me thinking. So last night’s creation included some frozen organic peas (washed and nuked for 4 minutes). The dish was spectacular! Next time – a pinch of nutmeg.

Creamed Spinach

To say I “like” creamed spinach would be an understatement. I have been a creamed spinach aficionado for as long as I can remember. As a kid – I would go out for dinner with my parents. At the conclusion of the main course, the server would walk over and offer dessert – “we have chocolate pie, chocolate sundaes, chocolate cake and . . . .” I never listened since my mind was already made up. I would ask for another bowl of creamed spinach. The waiter would look at my father who would shrug his shoulders. On occasion at Louie’s Restaurant in Addison, I’d get two desserts. . . . . True. . . . .

Spinach is technically a flowering plant – native to Asia. In 2018, the world’s production of spinach was 26.3 million tons. I believe I consumed about 14% of that total (yes, on that I am kidding). Spinach is low in calories and high in nutritional value. Spinach is thought to have originated 2,000 years ago in ancient Persia. In 827 AD the Saracens introduced spinach to Sicily. Spinach first appeared in text in 10th Century medical works. And, like Popeye the Sailor Man, I attribute whatever strength I have to spinach. To quote Popeye – “spinach is full of vitamin A an’ tha’s what makes hoomans (sic) strong and helty (sic).”

If you want a special treat, try my recipe for creamed spinach: I start with half a yellow onion finely chopped and sautéed in 2 tablespoons of butter. Sautée until onion is translucent. Then add a few ounces of heavy cream and a few ounces of creamed cheese (separated). Let warm on low heat. Then sautée 10 ounces of (I prefer organic) triple washed spinach in olive oil. Once cooked – drain the olive oil (I use paper towels to help dry the spinach) and add the onion/cream and mix well. I add garlic powder and pepper. And you have creamed spinach that can accompany any meal. If you have any leftovers, let me know. . . .

Let’s Make a Deal

When I was a 27 year old State’s Attorney handling felony cases at 26th & California, we’d have maybe 20 to 30 cases on call every day. As defense attorneys stepped up when their case was called, they’d sometimes lean over and ask “can we work this out?” In other words, if a guy was brought out for a homicide in a bar fight, the defense would want to discuss the matter. Maybe reduce murder to voluntary manslaughter. Resulting in a lower sentence. And it was “let’s make a deal.” Negotiations were usually carried out in the judge’s chambers. Chatting. The judge’s office was small and defense counsel sat next to me – six feet from the judge who would lean back and say “what can we do, boys?” If we “reduced” a crime (murder to manslaughter), we would have to go downstairs for permission from higher ups in the SAO.

When I moved on from negotiating felony cases (sometimes life or death), I continued to negotiate. All the time. Meetings in person were usually held in a room – with opposing counsel sitting on the other side of a table. When I’d walk in – I would always plop down next to him (or her). They’d look over like – what the @^$@*X is he doing?? I’d say “easier to talk this way.” And I’d sometimes set a coffee cup or something in the center of the table and pause – counsel would look at me – and I’d say “that’s our problem.” Now the other side would look at me like I was demented – but I’d press on – “let’s think of that as our problem. How can we work together to resolve it?” And counsel would catch on. We’d discuss options. And nearly always resolve our differences. Coming to a solution. Let’s make a deal.

Statistically, cases filed in court are resolved 85 to 90% of the time. Why?? Because if you go to trial, there is a 100% chance that somebody’s gonna lose. And that loser could be you. Resolutions were often like drinking a warm Pepsi on a hot day. Not perfect – but satisfactory. For both sides. Let’s make a deal.

Look at the photos of negotiations going on with Vladimir Putin (a criminal who should be at 26th & California). There is a table as long as a football field with participants sitting at opposite ends. And I think to myself – if that was me going in to negotiate with Putin, I’d drag my chair over and sit next to him. And put my coffee cup in the middle of the table. . . . .

Free at Last. . . .

I was there – live and in person – when Martin Luther King delivered his speech which ended with the words “free at last, free at last, thank God a’mighty we are free at last.” It was an amazing day – but it was not at the Lincoln Memorial in August 1963. It was in Miami Beach in 1961.

When I was 14 years old, the American Lutheran Church Luther League Convention was held in Miami Beach, Florida, August 15-20, 1961. St. Mark Lutheran Church in Mt. Prospect sent a contingent of “Hi Leaguers” to this august August event. And I was one of them. Dr. King was the keynote speaker.

Dr. King’s speech was recorded – and transcribed – and can be found at https://soundcloud.com/user-238560644/dr-martin-luther-king-jr-speaking-at-the-alc-luther-league-convention-in-1961 This last few days, I revisited the transcription of that speech 61 years ago. “Powerful” is an understatement. They are words that we would be well advised to remember. And incorporate into our lives. A few examples which apply today. . . .

The world in which we live is a neighborhood, and we face the moral responsibility of making it a brotherhood. We must learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools.

All life is inter-related and we are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny so that whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

” . . . there is a voice crying through the vista of time saying to every potential Peter ‘put down your sword.’ History is replete with the bleached bones of nations. History is cluttered with the wreckage of communities that fail to follow this command.”

And he quotes John Donne – “No man is an island entirely of itself — every man is a piece of the continent – a part of the main.

The words of Dr. King are worth reading. And re-reading. Perhaps one day, “all of God’s children” can join hands – and be “free at last.

Sleeping in Frank’s Bed

[A repeat from May 21, 2017] My first Board meeting of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation was held at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, AZ.  Before leaving home, I asked where I should make reservations to stay.  I was told “don’t worry about it.   Just come to Taliesin.”  Soooooo . . . . on a Thursday afternoon – after the flight from Chicago – Donna and I showed up with our luggage at Taliesin West.  

After checking in, our host escorted us toward one edge of the compound.  There was a low-lying building that looked quite nice.  Our host keyed open the door and brought us in.  “Welcome to the Sun Cottage.”  It was explained that this was Mr. Wright’s home when he stayed at Taliesin.  Our escort walked us around the premises, handed us a key – and left.  

We wandered around the place.  Picking up knick knacks that were probably worth a small fortune.  I checked out the closet.  Mr. Wright (everyone calls him “Mister Wright“) still had clothes hanging on the rack.  From 1959 –  when he died.  I pulled a book – FLW’s autobiography – off the shelf and opened it.  It was penned and inscribed “To my darling Olgivanna from your husband Frank Lloyd Wright.”   I thought to myself – this isn’t Kansas, Toto. . . . . That is until we got into bed.  Mr. Wright, who was all of 5′ 8″ tall, had a bed made to his size.  My tootsies hung over the end of the bed.  The next morning, I stepped into a shower which was the size of a tiny phone booth.  My shoulders touched the sides.  And the shower nozzle was positioned at the 5’8″ mark.  You coulda sold seats for the contortions I used to soap down my head. . . . 

Depressed? Get a Cow.

Depression. Who hasn’t been depressed. I know I have. According to various medical-related organizations, there are seven (or eight) types of depression: Major Depressive Disorder (periodic symptoms); Persistent Depressive Disorder (long term, chronic depression); Postpartum Depression/Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder; Bipolar Depression; Seasonal Affective Disorder; Psychotic Depression (includes hallucinations and delusions); and Atypical Depression (situational depression).

Depression is serious. And it is painful – for those going through it and for those who live with those who suffer. Depression can be due to genetic vulnerability, chemical imbalance or situational circumstance. Treatments vary but can include medication, electrical stimulation/shock and counseling.

I watched a TED Talk a few weeks ago on depression by author Johann Hari (13 million views). His presentation is interesting and enlightening about causation and cure. See https://www.ted.com/talks/johann_hari_this_could_be_why_you_re_depressed_or_anxious?language=en One of the vignettes related a sad, disabled farmer in a small Cambodian village and how his fellow villagers addressed his depression — and made him flourish — with a cow. There are a various ways we can help meet the deep, underlying psychological needs of our fellow man/woman. But most of all it requires understanding, compassion and knowledge that at one time or another – we have all been in the same boat.

Joe Miller’s Joke Book

[A repeat from January 6, 2013] I always wanted to be a stand up comedian — but I don’t have the legs for it.  Comedians actually run in my family.  They have to if they want to survive. . . . .

I like jokes.  Humor.  Comedy.  The Three Stooges (“are you kidding Petersen?”).  The HoneymoonersSeinfeld.  I like to laugh.   A favorite funny movie?  “Planes Trains and Automobiles.”  Or maybe it’s “Airplane.”  Or “Young Frankenstein.”  Or “The Pink Panther.”  Humor is a great medicine (see post of July 28, 2011).  One of the best.   

The person I’d like most to have dinner with?  Aristophanes (see post of August 28, 2011).  Aristophanes was the first stand up comedian in about 400 B.C.  He got in big trouble with the Emperor – Cleon – for pretending on stage that he was Cleon.  Smeared with wine.  And drunk . . . .

The first book of jokes wasn’t published until 1739.  It was Joe Miller’s Joke Book, then known as Joe Miller’s Jests or The Wit’s Vade-Mecum.  Joe Miller (1684-1738) was an English actor who played a large number of humorous/comedic parts.  When Miller died, a chap named John Motley (1692-1750) published Joe Miller’s “jests” in 1739.  It was a collection of contemporary and ancient witticisms.  The first edition had 247 numbered jokes. 

A famous teacher of Arithmetick who had long been married without being able to get his Wife with Child.  One said to her ‘Madam, your Husband is an excellent Arithmetician.’  ‘Yes, replies she, only he can’t multiply.'”   (That’s number 234) 

Joe Miller was referred to by Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1843) (“Joe Miller never made such a joke as sending [the turkey] to Bob’s. . . .”). 

After I croak, perhaps someone will write “The Renaissance Hombre’s Joke Book.”  I have a card file full of them . . . .