A few post-Mardi Gras odds and ends:
Over the years Lagniappe has done a few stories about the reluctance of members of the Mobile County Bar Association to take on sitting judges at election time. As local lawns are currently festooned with signs for judicial candidates, that issue may, at first blush, seem to have corrected itself. But not so fast.

Right now there are six people running for Circuit Judge in Mobile County — five for one open place. The other open place had one attorney, Wes Pipes, qualify, meaning he will win by default. Meanwhile, seven incumbent Circuit Judges will run for re-election unopposed. Two judges, Jim Patterson and Sarah Stewart, are not up for re-election right now.

So that means five people would rather scrap it out with one another for one spot than either take on Pipes for another open seat or face off against a sitting judge. What’s going on here? Common logic would suggest there are better odds for at least one of these candidates to go up against Pipes. In the Place 6 race, four Republicans are fighting to get to the general election where the winner will face Karlos Finley, the lone Democrat. You’d think at least one of those Republicans might look over at Pipes and think, “Hey! That guy doesn’t have any competition!” Or notice the other judges just waltzing back into office.

We’ve long heard about backroom deals, threats and coercion that precede candidates’ decisions to run for judge. Certain “favored” candidates are allegedly ushered along when seats open up and many lawyers profess to fear running off against a sitting judge lest they lose and are “never able to practice before that judge again.”

The powers that be typically “pshaw” such claims, but once again our sitting judges face no opposition while five candidates scramble for one open seat and allow another newcomer to cruise right into a black robe without breaking a sweat.

Not to say we don’t have qualified judges on the bench, but this county would be better served if judges were routinely challenged rather than the positions operating essentially like lifetime appointments.

OB ready for some Excellence
Let’s face it, Mobile County is already up against it when it comes to competing with Baldwin County for residents. Baldwin has tons of open space, superior schools, sugary-white beaches and the kind of Good ol’ Boy System other counties just dream about. Now Baldwin is about to extend its lead.

Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon’s recently announced “Expect Excellence” after-school program is just one more reason people will be heading across the bay, setting fire to their cars and never coming back. “Expect Excellence” will be open to students in grades 7 through 12, and will teach skills that will help young people achieve that expected excellence.

Mayor Kennon and the City Council have assembled a team to do things such as helping with homework, and have classes on “academics, arts and athletics.” There’s also a “General Manners of Respectful Behavior and Class” program to be attended by “Southern Gentlemen and Belles.”

While all the tutoring and athletic opportunities sound, well, excellent, I’m more interested in the manners and behavior class. For example, “Southern Gentlemen” lessons will include such things as a gentleman’s dress code and tying ties, how to treat a lady, respectful courtship, conversation and appropriate language, and laundry folding and ironing, just to name a few.

On the flipside, the “Belles” will learn to have an attitude for success, acceptable conversation topics, appropriate dress and accessorizing, flower-arranging and gift-wrapping.

These all sound like quality topics, to be sure, and I’m sure their mastery will help achieve a certain level of success. But I think they’re going to have to get a little more detailed if actual excellence is to be achieved. For instance, there’s no mention of teaching Southern Gentlemen all of the ways he might open a beer bottle when an opener is not available. That’s a handy skill. A class on matching your sleeveless T-shirt to your visor might also help young men during the job interview process.

Likewise, the belles’ classes are OK, but nothing about selecting a tasteful tramp stamp to help liven up the beach? Come on! What about how to win a bikini contest without conceiving a child?

Both boys and girls should brush up on mullet throwing, too. It’s a nice start, Tony, but excellence isn’t just about tying ties and limiting the number of f-bombs during conversation.

And one more thing …
One of the strange things about this profession, especially in the Internet Age, is that sometimes what you write travels farther than you’d ever imagine. I had that experience last Friday when I woke up to an unhappy letter from actor Corbin Bernsen.

He’s the guy who played the dreamy Arnie Becker in “L.A. Law.” He also was Roger Dorn in all three “Major League” movies, and more recently played Detective Henry Spencer on the series “Psych.”

Bernsen was peeved that in last week’s column I called him a “B-List” actor as I was making some silly points about why Mobile’s Mardi Gras is better than New Orleans’. I saw Corbin riding in the Endymion Parade in the ‘90s during his “L.A. Law” years, so it came to mind as an example of N.O’s use of celebrities to attract crowds.

Suffice it to say Bernsen was none-too-pleased with a tongue-in-cheek put-down from some smartass newspaper columnist in Mobile and he gave me a rundown of his many accomplishments, both personal and professional.

Well, aside from the time I made a remark about the Popeil Pocket Fisherman and brought down the wrath of Ronco, I’ve never received a more surprising response to a throwaway joke in a column. Who knew Arnie Becker reads Lagniappe?!

We wrote back and forth a little and he was a good sport about things and accepted my apology. Bernsen even said he’d be interested in coming to Mobile and riding in one of our Mardi Gras parades, so if any of you folks in charge of such things want Corbin to join you, let me know and I’ll pass it along.

Part of my penance for picking on him last week was letting readers know he’ll be in the third season of the Sundance Channel show “Hap and Leonard” starting in the second episode.

Now my soul feels lighter after making things right with Corbin. If only I could say the same for the Pocket Fisherman people.