Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Billing legal hours like truffle pigs."

Sometimes a turn of phrase jumps out at the reader.  One example of this is found in this New York Times article about the legal woes facing David Adjmi.  Mr. Adjmi, a playwright and University of Iowa alum, is in the news because his latest play 3C has received a cease-and-desist letter from lawyers representing the producers (more accurately, the children of the producers) of the 70s TV show Three's Company.  The producers are unhappy about the similarities between 3C and Three's Company and think that Mr. Adjmi's play is not a fair use parody of Three's Company.

Mr. Adjmi disagrees but apparently does not have the funds for a protracted legal battle on the issue.  Nevertheless, his fellow playwrights want Mr. Adjmi to fight.  The Times quotes playwright Jon Robin Baitz:
The fact that the lawyers for the long-gone show ‘Three’s Company’ have nothing better to do, aside from billing legal hours like truffle pigs, than attempt to bully an Off Broadway playwright of modest means is an affront of the most base kind.
I am pretty sure that "truffle pig" is not a compliment.  I was not entirely sure what "affront of the most base kind" means so I looked it up.  Affront, as a noun, means "an action or remark that causes outrage or offense."  Base, which I am pretty sure is an adjective in this case means either "lacking or indicating the lack of higher qualities of mind or spirit" or perhaps "lacking in higher values." 

Mr. Baitz is a playwright and so I assume he chooses his words carefully.  However, I think he has missed his mark.  First, Note that his ire is directed not at the producers of Three's Company but at the lawyers representing the producers.  I do not know the identity of the particular lawyers.  However, I feel safe in saying that whoever those lawyers are, they have more to do than draft cease and desist letters.  The bullying, assuming there is some going on, is not caused by lawyers.  It should be obvious that the bullying comes from the producers (or, it appears, from their children).

Moreover, is a cease and desist letter really the most outrageous thing lacking in higher values that Mr. Baitz can think of?  I can think of a lot more outrageous and ignoble events in human history or even in current events.  If Mr. Baitz can't, then I congratulate him on living an amazingly sheltered life.  Either that or the terms he is using have lost all meaning. 

However, since I am trying to be more kind, I do want to thank Mr. Baitz for giving me the phrase "truffle pig."  I do not know if I will ever get to use that phrase, but I am going to put it in the file in the hope that something might come up.

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