Career Killers: “Alone Again” by Biz Markie

A bit of a departure for me on this one. I wrote an ABA Journal cover story in 2019 looking at songs that changed the law. The issue of sampling has become an important one when it comes to copyright law. A major reason why was because of two 1991 cases. I spotlighted the first: a lawsuit filed by members of 60s era band The Turtles against hip hop group De La Soul. I decided to take a look at the second one, which involves the recently deceased rapper Biz Markie.

When the Diabolical Biz Markie died in July, many publications made sure to emphasize that he was more than just a one hit wonder. Widely known for his big personality and sense of humor, the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop” (he once recorded a song about picking his nose called “Pickin’ Boogers” – either that or “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Gotta Boogie,” is the best songs ever written about nose doo-doo) was a highly influential rapper who was beloved in hip hop circles and by his fans.

But the fact remains that most people only knew him by his big hit, 1989’s “Just a Friend.” A major reason why he never had another was because of a lawsuit that helped set a precedent in the then-grey area of sampling.

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Dun Dun!

Late last month, NBC announced it was reviving the original “Law & Order” as a prime-time series.

The news came a month after my feature examining the show’s legacy in shaping our understanding of the criminal justice system hit the stands. Surely the folks at NBC and Wolf Entertainment read it and decided they had no choice but to bring it back, right?

So, you’re welcome! Now, if I only can get NBC to bring “Ed” back.

We Are The Champions!

Very proud to win several Azbee Awards of Excellence from the American Society of Business Publication Editors this year. I think this might have been my biggest haul yet.

Bush v. Gore: The Coin

In general, I try to avoid coins issued by private mints. They tend to have very little numismatic value and can even be of dubious legality. In fact, they aren’t legally “coins” since they aren’t issued by a government. Instead, they are often marketed as “rounds.”

But when the private Washington Mint released this silver round in 2000 amidst the uncertainty over who won that year’s Presidential election, I jumped at the chance to buy it. For one thing, I’ve always been a sucker for political-themed exonumia – especially Hard Times Tokens.

For another, this unique two-headed coin with a bust of Al Gore on one side and George W. Bush on the other with each man named as the 43rd President of the United States really captures just how bizarre that entire period was. Between the retracted concessions, hanging chads, organized “riots,” court battles and hand recounts, it seemed like every day provided a new twist and turn as we tried to determine just who had actually won Florida – and therefore the election.

Apparently, the Washington Mint had already been working on an inauguration medallion and had prepared busts of both Gore and Bush. Not knowing which one they would get to use, and inspired by a Tonight Show sketch shortly after Election Day about ways to determine the winner, the Mint got the idea to make the two-headed coin. They even sent two coins on Nov. 13 to Jay Leno to use for a possible skit. Ultimately, after another month, Gore conceded following the Supreme Court’s decision stopping Florida’s recount.

I figured the coin was relevant now since this is the first time since 2000 where one major-party candidate challenged the outcome of a Presidential race. This time, however, enough states have certified their returns to give one candidate a clear majority in the Electoral College, and there have been multiple lawsuits filed in several states instead of just Florida. Those lawsuits aren’t going well, though, which probably explains why there haven’t been any two-headed Joe Biden/Donald Trump coins.

Career Killers: “Paula” by Robin Thicke.

I wrote a review for Robin Thicke’s Paula when it first came out in 2014. I decided to revisit it for several reasons. 1) I’m lazy, 2) It was obvious, at the time, that this record would tank his career and 3) I see him every week as a judge on The Masked Singer and I can’t decide whether being on a hit show means that his career has recovered from this debacle of an album or if it’s confirmation that his musical career is over and that he’ll just be a reality show judge from here on out. In other words, did his album about one Paula (Patton) have the effect of turning him into another Paula (Abdul)?

In retrospect, “Blurred Lines” wasn’t the start of something great for Robin Thicke. It was the beginning of the end. And Paula ended up being the nail in the coffin.

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Award Season 2020

I’m very proud to see “State of the Profession,” an annual feature I’m in charge of, win the National and Upper Midwest Regional Azbee Awards for Excellence for Data Journalism from the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

And I’m also proud to have been nominated for a Peter Lisagor Award by the Chicago Headline Club for Best Feature Story (Non-Daily Newspaper, Magazine or Newspaper-Magazine) for “Lawyers, songs and money: Music that changed the law.” That piece meant a lot to me, personally, and I was glad to see it get some recognition.

One Man’s Crusade: The Twenty Cent Coin

One theme that’s been well-covered here on the blog has been the ability of influential politicians to get bills passed authorizing various types of coins. Whether it’s for fiscal reasons, to commemorate important people in American history, or because someone really, really liked a particular design, politicians have been able to get all sorts of coins authorized, minted and circulated.

There’s also plain old self-interest.

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Always My Favorite Part of Techshow

Got my obligatory photo from Phil Brown during the just-completed ABA Techshow. I was quite proud of our coverage of this year’s event. It was a lot of hard work in the midst of some big-time adversity. Thanks to my colleagues for their help!

All About the Benjamins

This was my gateway coin.

I was in middle school when I happened to see it in an old bowl of change in my parents’ room and was immediately intrigued. I had seen half dollars before, but only ones with John F. Kennedy on them. I had never seen one with Benjamin Franklin’s face on it. Yet, here it was, forgotten about and collecting dust in a bowl so dirty that the amount of effort it would take to make it suitable for food consumption again wouldn’t have been worth it.

Nevertheless, I was fascinated (by the coin, not the bowl) and asked my mom if I could have it. “Sure,” she said with a shrug – never imagining that it would lead to a lifetime of coin collecting on my part. Or maybe she was just happy I was interested in something besides baseball cards or Garbage Pail Kids. After all, coin collecting is the hobby of kings. Literally.

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The 1982 George Washington Half Dollar: Commemorative Coins Make a Comeback

By the time 1981 rolled around, the following things were dead:

And so were commemorative coins. In fact, compared to those aforementioned deceased things, commemorative coins had been in the ground the longest, thanks to a glut of offerings with limited appeal that killed the market for much of the preceding three decades.

Everything changed when it came time to honor the 250th anniversary of the birth of the father of our country.

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Nixon on Mt. Rushmore?

I enjoyed watching the Watchmen pilot on HBO last week. This little Easter egg caught my attention. Apparently, in the Watchmen universe, Watergate never happened and Nixon won the Vietnam War. As such, he was so beloved and successful that they repealed the 22nd Amendment so he could run for three more terms and then added his face to Mt. Rushmore during the 20-something year tenure of his successor: Robert Redford. No word on whether or not Nixon still served as public partner for a major Wall Street law firm in the Watchmen universe.

Fun fact: The firm that eventually became Nixon Mudge once had Charles Rushmore as a name partner – a man whose claim to fame was that he had been the namesake for the famous monument.