It is an accepted truth that your workspace may play a role in the quality of your output.

For that reason, I am abashed to tell you for how long I have stared at my office’s white walls. Unadorned—by anything—since I moved in years ago, my space envelopes me like an arctic floe, or a blank page. I knew on many levels that such a thing was not positive for someone who writes—I have plenty of blank pages already. But I held out for just the right piece to obliterate the snowy expanse.

I finally have given up that ghost. Instead, this past weekend I pounded some nails and hung some art.

Well, I call it art.

It is a collection I have of old lawyerabilia (yes, I insist there is such a word). It includes a few prints and a hand-written cartoon by Steve Benson.

But the main things I enjoy are the old ads that feature lawyers, such as the “judge” shilling for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (“More judges pass down a friendly verdict on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes than on any other cereal”), trial lawyer F. Lee Bailey tipping back for Smirnoff Vodka, and a circa-1930s campaign card for a Pennsylvania judge (“Your vote and influence will be appreciated” – Canons, anyone?).

I also love the Time Magazine cover from 1978 headlined “Those **@!! Lawyers.” Who among us hasn’t felt the same?

Here are a few photos.

In the democratic spirit on this Change of Venue Friday, let me know what you appreciate. Make your selection from the poll below. (For a better view before you vote, click on any of the images.)

... and I did, too.

Tonight, many political junkies like me will be gathered around their TVs, or computers, or hand-held devices. Our faces will be cast in the luminous glow of screens large and small as we await the outcome of election 2010. After what seems like a year of negative campaigning, we finally get to learn: Will the Marxists win, or the Nazis?

I joke, but unfortunately, that appears to be the drain we’re circling in these final hours. So I wondered if there was anything out there in the media that held the power to surprise or maybe, just maybe, delight.

I may have found it.

The Arizona Republic today offered a small item—nearly a squib—that may provide more value than most of their ballyhooed endorsements. Here is the story in its entirety:

“We’re streaming Arizona Republic Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Steve Benson live tonight from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. (Arizona time).

“He’ll draw reader requests live and you can watch. Want Benson to draw one of your election-night ideas? Maybe illustrate a certain candidate or a certain issue?

The story goes on to instruct Web readers: “Type your request in the box below and he’ll see what he can do.”


The story and the video feed (live this evening) are here.

As I type this, I’m looking at a Benson cartoon that I am privileged to call my own. It came my way via a silent auction. It was held as a fundraiser at the 2006 annual conference of the SPJ, held that August. Its focus on the freedom of the press was tailor-made for a crowd of journos.

Steve Benson cartoon in my office

In fact, there were a lot of bids on the work that night, but ultimately my opponent was winnowed down to a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. We went tit for tat, bid for bid, until I pointed out that Steve Benson was an Arizona home-town success story, and I wasn’t walking away from the table without the piece. The Buckeye folded soon after that. I was then the proud owner of a piece of Benson’s own pen-and-ink muck-raking.

Here are some more photos of my Benson cartoon. And be sure to send the cartoonist your ideas for tonight’s political-art event. Let me know if he takes you up on your idea.


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