No end to what Americans litigate? The latest...


December 16, 1991

IS THERE no end to what Americans litigate? The latest absurdity comes from New York's Westchester County, where a mother recently sued the Yorktown school district because her son did not get into the National Honor Society.

Just think if she had won her case: Parents would have rushed into court to force schools to put their kids on the football team, the marching band, the cheerleading squad. Why some parents would probably go judge-shopping to force teachers to give their Einsteins As instead of Bs.

For the moment, at least, we're spared that inanity: the federal judge hearing the honor-society case said it was frivolous -- and then lit into the plaintiff:

"Our federal court system is being brought into ridicule and our Constitution is being debased by persons who proclaim themselves to be its strongest supporters: civil rights advocates and attorneys purportedly working in the public interest.

"By attempting to elevate mere personal desires into constitutional rights and claiming denial of their civil rights whenever their desires are not realized, these persons are demeaning the essential rights and procedures that protest us all."

The outraged judge ordered the mother who sued to pay the school district $60,000 in court costs. Now that might put membership in an honor society in proper perspective.

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THE INVENTION date of the saxophone is one of those things that causes eternal arguments. The Belgian instrument-maker Adolphe Sax patented the musical device in 1846 but some say the first saxophone was actually born so much earlier that this would be its 150th anniversary year.

The saxophone, of course, is best known as a jazz and popular music instrument. Even there, styles have ranged greatly. Compare the brilliant urgency of John Coltrane with the lyrical sweetness of Paul Desmond, for example. Or listen to the difference between two great Baltimore-born saxophonists, Gary Bartz and Mickey Fields.

Quite a classical music repertoire exists for the saxophone. Recently, a Nashville musician, Neal Ramsay, played three concerts of nothing but classical sax in New York.

It's amazing how musical instruments designed for one purpose can be used for another. Come to think of it, we once had a friend who claimed to have heard folk tunes and jazz played on a saw.

Similarly, parts of symphonic works have been played on a makeshift instrument in which drinking glasses filled with various levels of water gave the needed tonal range.

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THE NAME of St. Petersburg, Fla., author Kurt Vonnegut told an audience at Johns Hopkins University last week, ought to be changed back to Leningrad. Should Moscow, Idaho, decide?

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