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reports and thoughts on legal issues, music, Orthodox Christianity and/or whatever else strikes my interest

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Location: Houston, Texas, United States

My name is David Stone. I live in Houston, Texas. I am a 30-something single white male. I am an Orthodox Christian and am a member of an English-language parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR).

Friday, April 28, 2006


Experts in Russia believe that they may have discovered the remains of Andrei Rublev.

Here is an article with the details.

Rublev was a famous iconographer of the Russian Orthodox Church. His most famous icon can be seen here.

The Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky also made a film based on his life.


The other night I was able to catch the final dress rehearsal for Houston Grand Opera's production of Claudio Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea.

Details on HGO's production can be found here.

Video clips from the same dress rehearsal can be seen here.

The stellar cast included: Susan Graham as Poppea, William Burden as Emperor Nerone, the legendary Frederica von Stade as Ottavia, Raymond Aceto as Seneca with William Lacey conducting.

I had never seen this opera before and was quite impressed by the performance. I had forgotten just how much I love Monteverdi's music.

The singers were near perfect I thought. It was really a thrill to finally get to hear Frederica von Stade live for the first time. I had a great seat right up at the front only about 40 feet away from the stage so I could hear everything exceptionally well. Susan Graham was also excellent in her role as Poppea. Both Raymond Aceto and William Burden were very impressive in their roles as well.

I especially enjoyed listening to the orchestra which used a harpsichord as well as two enormous theorbos. I found out after the performance that the orchestra was actually improvising (within some general guidelines) in many instances during the opera.

For recordings of Poppea see here.

Lay Testifies

Ken Lay has been testifying this week in the Enron trial.

Here is a report from the Houston Chronicle.

More coverage on local Houston blogs can be found here, here, here, and here.

For more info on what Ken Lay has to say in his own defense see his website.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Christ is Risen!

Hoping everyone had a wonderful Pascha and will enjoy all of Bright Week.

Here is an article on the traditional Paschal greeting for Orthodox Christians.

Here is a good site with more information on the miracle of the Holy Fire which occurs every year in Jerusalem at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Christos Anesti!
Christos Voskrese!
Christ is Risen!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Paschal Epistle

Here is the 2006 Paschal Epistle of his Eminence Metropolitan Laurus, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia.

Almost there...

It's been a real struggle this Holy Week but Pascha is almost here.

Today is Great and Holy Saturday.

Here is an article on this Feast.

Here is another good article on some of the Greek Orthodox traditions for this Feast.

Later tonight, we will begin the final preparations for the Feast of Feasts.

Friday, April 21, 2006

From the Fathers

"Let those of us who have wisely finished the course of fasting and who celebrate with love the beginning of the suffering of the Passion of the Lord,
Let us all, my brothers, zealously imitate the purity of self-controlled Joseph;
Let us fear the sterility of the fig tree;
Let us dry up through almsgiving the sweetness of passion.

In order that we may joyously anticipate the Resurrection,
Let us procure like myrrh pardon from on high

because the Eye that never sleeps observes all things.

O Savior, consider those of us who have appeared at the season of thy passion, worthy to worship also Thy Resurrection, O Eye that does not sleep."

Saint Romanos the Melodist

h/t to Daily Wisdom of the Fathers

Merck Loses again in Texas

A Texas jury has ruled against Merck once again in the most recent Vioxx trial.

The jury awarded $32 million in damages to the family of a man who suffered a fatal heart attack after taking Vioxx.

This article from Bloomberg has the details.

The case was tried in Rio Grande City in Starr County in South Texas. This area is notorious for being very "plaintiffs friendly" so this verdict should not come as much of a surprise.

In fact this region recently topped the list of "Judicial Hellholes" in America.

The damages amount will likely be reduced due to Texas law which limits punitive damages.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mississippi Court tosses out-of-state asbestos claims

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled against claims alleging out-of-state asbestos exposure.

This article from the Clarion Ledger has the details.

The Court's Opinion can be found here.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Skilling Cross Examination

The cross examination of Jeff Skilling by the Prosecution began today in the Enron trial.

Here is a report from the Houston Chronicle.

More coverage on local Houston blogs can be found here, here, here, and here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Elvis Costello

Photo from www.chron.com/

Last night I saw Elvis Costello perform with the Houston Symphony in a concert at Jones Hall.

After joking that the venue was to be renamed George Jones Hall Elvis explained that the first half of the concert would be a performance by the HSO of a suite from Il Sogno.

This orchestral suite had a few interesting moments but it is not really a compelling piece of classical music. To be fair it is pretty remarkable that a pop musician would take the time and effort to acquire the technical orchestration skills needed to compose a piece like this. I just did not find it particularly interesting musically. Still, every classical composer has to start somewhere and it looks like Elvis is going to continue composing classical works.

Immediately after the performance of the ballet suite Elvis grabbed an acoustic guitar and launched into a solo performance of a new song The River in Reverse which is the title track from his upcoming album with Allen Toussaint.

Next the HSO joined Elvis and his keyboard player Steve Nieve in a arrangement of All This Useless Beauty. This was followed by another orchestral arrangement of The Birds Will Still be Singing which is one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite cds The Juliet Letters.

After an intermission Costello, Nieve and the HSO returned for the second half of the program which featured a mixture of old and new songs written by Elvis and a few other songwriters.

Highlights included "crooning" versions of Still from the North cd, Upon a Veil of Midnight Blue from his newest cd and Almost Blue which was origanally written for Chet Baker.

The audience favorite though seemed to be a strikingly original new arrangement of Watching the Detectives complete with overtones of the soundtracks from popular fifties era television crime shows. I especially liked the use of the low brass to simulate the well-known opening bass guitar riff from this classic.

Next Elvis, Steve and the HSO did versions of She (a Charles Aznavour song), God Give Me Strength, and I Still Have that Other Girl from his cd with Burt Bacharach, and then another audience fave Allison.

Elvis ended the concert by performing the song Couldn't Call It Unexpected #4 without a microphone showcasing just how strong and flexible his voice really is.

Overall it was a very enjoyable and interesting concert.

Here is another review from one of the Houston Chronicle affiliated blogs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Yuri Gagarin

Today is the 45th anniversary of the first manned spaceflight by Yuri Gagarin.

The Russian news service Interfax now reports that Gagarin never said "I don't see any god up here.", a quote that was famously attributed to him.

Interfax also reports that Gagarin, in addition to being a believer, was also one of the first people to advocate the rebuilding of Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow.

It is also mentioned that Gagarin made repeated trips to the Holy Trinity-Saint Sergius Monastery.

The full report can be read here.

I once got to meet a cosmonaut from Ukraine who was in Houston to train at Nasa's Johnson Space Center. I met him while we were both attending a service at a local Orthodox church. I remember him stating that many cosmonauts are Orthodox and take their icons and crosses into space with them.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Texas Style Deposition

A video clip of a deposition involving legendary Houston attorney Joe Jamail has been making the rounds of some of the legal blogs the last few days.

I first saw it over at overlawyered.com.

Here is the background: the man seen in the clip is an expert witness for Monsanto Corp. Joe Jamail is sitting to the right of the witness and Edward Carstarphen is sitting just to his left. Neither Jamail or Carstarphen are visible except for their arms and hands. I do not know the identity of "Tucker" who is also not visible in the clip.

So here is a post (h/t to Point of Law) that links to the clip. WARNING - the video contains some offensive language...may not be suitable for viewing at work!

That said this is the funniest thing I have seen in a long, long time.


Punitive Damages in Vioxx Trial

The jury in the latest Vioxx trial in New Jersey has awarded punitive damages to one of the plaintiffs in the amount of $9 million. This brings the total damages awarded in the case to $13.5 million.

This article from Forbes has more details. The findings of the jury are given here.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Skilling takes the stand

Jeff Skilling began his testimony today in the ongoing Enron trial in Houston.

The Houston Chronicle's coverage of the testimony can be found here. Reactions from local blogs can be found here, here and here.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Texas attorneys hand over documents in Silicosis Probe

Two Texas attorneys have now turned over documents relating to silicosis claims that are being investigated by a Congressional Committee.

The attorneys had been threatened with being held in contempt if they failed to turn over the documents.

This article from Texas Lawyer has all the details.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

From the Fathers

"Demons often transform themselves into angels of light and take the form of martyrs, and make it appear to us during sleep that we are in communication with them. Then, when we wake up, they plunge us into unholy joy and conceit. But you can detect their deceit by this very fact. For angels reveal torments, judgments and separations; and when we wake up we find that we are trembling and sad. As soon as we begin to believe the demons in dreams, then they make sport of us when we are awake too. He who believes in dreams is completely inexperienced. But he who distrusts all dreams is a wise man. Only believe dreams that warn you of torments and judgments. But if despair afflicts you, then such dreams are also from demons."

St John Climacus
The Ladder of Divine Ascent

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Split Decision in New Jersey Vioxx Trial

The New Jersey Vioxx trial has ended with the jury rendering a mixed verdict.

The trial involved the cases of two different men who suffered heart attacks while taking Vioxx.

The jury found that Merck was liable in the case of one of the men and will have to pay at least $4.5 million in damages.

This article from Bloomberg has all the details.

Here is another good article from MarketWatch.com on how a mixed verdict was possible in this case.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sidehill Gougers

The other night I was able to catch the Sidehill Gougers performing over at Anderson Fair.

The concert was also supposed to have been a cd release party. The band has recorded a new EP of seven songs. Unfortunately...like every other supposed cd release party I’ve ever been to...the cds had not arrived yet in time for the show.

It should be available any day now. You can check the band’s page at LoneStarMusic.com for their available recordings.

The opening act was a young (make that real young) duo named the dedringers. I thought these two guys played a pretty good set over all. I especially enjoyed their version of Black Jack Mama by Townes Van Zandt. The original version can be found on the In the Beginning cd which features some of Townes' earliest recordings.

Unfortunately, I was only able to stay for the first set by the Sidehill Gougers but it alone was worth the price of admission. They did a couple of songs from their new EP as well as their first cd Runaway Scrape. They even managed to include the Townes Van Zandt song If I Needed You in their set. They also played Gram Parson’s Return of the Grievous Angel by request.

It was also my first visit to Anderson Fair which is a pretty cool place. It has quite a history in Houston. It has been operating since the 1960’s I believe. They have a lot of great pictures on the walls from all the various performers who have played there down through the decades. They even had an old sign that was still up indicating that “Hippies should use the back stage entrance.”

And they also carry Anchor Steam beer...which is a good thing.

More trouble for Merck

The New Jersey Appellate Division has upheld Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee's certification of a national class-action lawsuit against Merck relating to Vioxx.

The class-action was brought by third-party insurers, HMO's, unions and other organizations who purchased Vioxx from Merck and then sold it to patients.

Here is an article from Bloomberg with the details.

Here is the Appellate Division's Opinion.

Monday, April 03, 2006

The IV All-Diaspora Council

The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia is preparing to hold its fourth All-Diaspora Council in May.

The Council is being held to address the issue of reconciliation with the Moscow Patriarchate.

For more information on previous All-Diaspora Councils see this article by Archbishop Hilarion.

Recently a website was launched that is devoted to the ongoing dialogue between ROCOR and the Moscow Patriarchate. The Russian version of the website can be found here. The website should have some materials available in English translation soon. Until then materials in English can be found here. A press release regarding the website can be found here.

A website devoted to the preparations and proceedings of the IV All-Diaspora Council was also recently launched. The Russian version of the website can be found here and the English version here. A press release regarding the website can be found here.

Here is a link to Archpriest Victor Potapov's excellent article on how members of ROCOR should be preparing for the Council.