Tuesday, November 19, 2013
When people think of classic Who, they'll remember the amazing run of Tom Baker or the boyish charm of Peter Davison. Unfortunately, the Doctors after Davison and before the mid-naughts relaunch were less universally beloved. McCoy genuinely got the short end of the stick, at the helm of the ship when it was sunk by a BBC executive. Like the Doctor before and after him, he did not get much screen time (42 episodes), and frankly the show looks worse than usual as I think it was recorded straight onto someone's VHS tape that had been sitting in a van in July, but I think McCoy's Doctor had quite a bit of charm. The 7th Doctor also was stuck with Mel, perhaps the least interesting companion of all time, and Ace, who likely wouldn't make my top ten list for companions.
Like Troughton, McCoy may have exhibited the Doctor personality of which I am most fond. Instantly warm and likable, yet dark and cunning, he exhibits a charm and wisdom that defines the greatness of Doctor Who. The 7th Doctor really found his legs towards the end of his limited run, and "The Curse of Fenric," the second to last story arc for this Doctor, is generally considered his best. For audio fans, McCoy's Doctor has had a large number of appearances in radio serials, so although his time was cut short, like the 8th Doctor (Paul McGann), McCoy continued his legacy in vintage radio form.
Of his audio and visual productions, though, "Fenric" stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the better Who serials. It's not an upper echelon story, but if you think about it, it was easily the best Who story released in a two decade period (1985-2005). Alas, those days are long behind us now, but let's journey back just for today and watch the "Fenric" serial, released 24 years ago this November.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
The Cadmus crossed an ocean wide
From the French shores to the new world
The General-Major toured the tide.
In every town which he did come
Their hero true was welcomed back
But soon fondness mellowed to glum
Under the skies of Hackensack.
The grass soaked up the silent sun
As shadows spilled from cold grave stones
Underneath the carpet earthen
Lay the Poor soldier's honored bones.
As melancholy stroked his heart
Amidst the bloomed perennials
Lafayette turned and remarked
"Ah, that was one of my generals."
Monday, September 9, 2013
While Batman is now a global phenomenon, Doctor Who is reaching that same apex. Although there was an American co-produced television movie in 1996, and while Doctor Who aired on PBS throughout the 1970s and 1980s, it was not until Russel T. Davies launched Christopher Eccelston as the Doctor in a new BBC series that the program took hold in the U.S.A.
There are many, many, many well-written articles out there describing all manner of Doctor Who-ness, so fans of the modern Who who (owl?) want to investigate the older series have a significant amount of resources to choose from. I just want to take a brief moment to highlight two unsung Doctors whom I believe people should take the time to watch.
Sylvester McCoy may be my favorite Doctor, not in terms of story arcs but just for personality. He was like Tom Baker's Doctor merged with Mr. Bean. Although his Doctor was the last one of the original run, that was not his fault; the BBC heads were trying to axe the show years before McCoy came on. By all accounts, the show's final season was one of its best and McCoy's Doctor was cut off prematurely. I will talk about him more in my next post, but for now, for today, let's talk about the second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton.
While William Hartnell was a stern grandfatherly figure and Jon Pewtree was James Bond with a Liberace wardrobe, the Doctor between those two was the cosmic hobo, a friendly yet wickedly clever time lord who allowed for humor and the "I know nothing but really everything" elements in the story. American audiences saw some of that with Peter Falk as Columbo. In many regards, Troughton's Doctor was the spiritual predecessor to McCoy's.
Unfortunately, a bad heart took Troughton too early (at the age of 67) and the BBC intentionally recorded over many of the early Who episodes, but we are left with an outstanding legacy, and some surviving arcs as well. One of the best is "The Tomb of the Cybermen," which also features the longest on air companion, Jamie the Scotsman (featured alongside the fourth Doctor in Viz Comics' "Doctor Poo"). We are also treated to the amazing (albeit brief) "Space Adventure" suite by Martin Slavin, played during the dramatic Cybermen scenes. It manages to evoke both electronica and the classic alien invasion scores of the 50s.
Anyway, presented below is the complete Tomb of the Cybermaen, which originally aired 46 years ago this month. Without question, it holds up and remains one of the top ten Who story arcs.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
However, I do want to take the time to talk about being a lawyer, especially as a fresh crop of unsuspecting students begin law school this month. No one will be honest with you about the realities of the profession before you join, and after you become barred (admitted, for the layman), then no one will dare discuss for fear of admitting weakness or failure. While everyone's experience in law will vary, I can say that for me, this kindhearted bloke typing these words for your eye sockets, a decade after I first stepped foot into law school, I can't help but thinking it was the biggest mistake I made in my life.
While I am not the best in my profession, I am certainly not the worst. I have practiced in state and municipal Courts, argued and settled numerous cases, and even got myself an award this year for my work. I am a member of professional bar associations and an Inn of Court. I have taught continuing legal education classes to other attorneys (and even a Judge). Despite this success, I see it all as a failure.
I hate the job. There are a number of reasons why, but we'll start with the one no one seems willing to discuss - the profession is draining. As that same colleague of mine also said, as an attorney, you can be under attack from your clients, your adversaries, Judges, or Court staff, sometimes all at once. Not only are clients typically upset about their legal problems (as well they should be), but they take out their aggression on their legal counsel. Many clients rarely listen to advice, and often clients cannot (or will not) pay their bills timely. It would be like going to the doctor, then arguing with your physician over how to treat your ailment, and then refusing to pay her for her services. Oh, and by the way, any single mistake could jeopardize your client's case and leave you the subject of a malpractice claim, or worse, an ethics complaint (both of which are taken very seriously and which I, thankfully, have no first hand experience thus far).
Amusingly, I have achieved fantastic results for clients who have turned around and been vitriolic towards me over the experience. Sometimes they don't appreciate what has happened, or they wanted more, or they wanted some unrealistic result, or they wanted it for free. It doesn't matter how many times and in how many ways you explain things to clients, they won't listen. Even the good ones, who sit in front of you and cry because they face eviction or losing their child or losing their freedom, drain you. I have had to sit in my office and absorb the emotional stress and angst of thousands of people.
This perhaps explains why the rate of drug dependence and suicide is so high in the profession. According to the Benchmark Institute, "10% of the adult population is alcoholic. [...] Studies conducted in numerous jurisdictions have pegged the rate of alcoholism in the legal profession at between 15% and 24%. Roughly 1 in 5 lawyers is addicted to alcohol." Philip Thomas articulates very well why the profession is horrible in an article discussing a rash of attorney suicides in Kentucky this summer.
While the practice is bad enough as it is, we (meaning attorneys) treat each other poorly. Not all of us. I try to be courteous to everyone, so I will rarely be curt or rude with a fellow lawyer, or anyone, for that matter. However, to be frank, the best attorneys are assholes, because the practice is saturated with antagonism, the playground of the professional asshole. People who are consensus builders, or thoughtful, or simply do not thrive on aggression and confrontation, have a hard time dealing with the law environment. In my experience, the attorneys who achieve the best results for their clients are the ones who can find a resolution without going to trial. It saves the client time and money, and the Courts in my state are specifically structured to encourage settlement, going so far as to have numerous mandatory settlement conferences, panels, mediation, etc., depending on the type of case. Yet, the profession is at such a point where bullies and jerks thrive, and there is a real economic incentive to drag out litigation. Despite knowing some wonderful people who practice, I can say at its heart that the practice of law is a horrible profession built by horrible people.
Then, of course, if a case can't settle, there is the tremendous pressure of rolling the dice and arguing in front of a Judge or jury. I respect and enjoy most of the Judges I appear in front of, and many of them like me on a personal level. However, they are overworked with huge caseloads. Americans may complain about lawyers and the justice system, but they're the ones clogging the Courts with countless cases. Judges are human, and they sometimes make mistakes, lose their cool, or become miserable like everyone else. Judges have a lot of power, not only over the litigants but over the attorneys as well. They can make life problematic, intentionally or not, but, as I said, I tend to like the Judges I deal with, so that's a small positive in a sea of negatives.
All of the above would not be so bad if I earned a salary that made it worth it. I went to a reasonably priced law school with a good name, paid in-state tuition, and still have a huge student loan. The principle never seems to go down, and as you probably know, you cannot get rid of student loans in bankruptcy. The American Bar Association warned students back in 2010 not to go to law school, as the tuition was (and still is) increasing far beyond the rate of inflation, and yet the job market is drying up. It's easier for someone like me, with experience, to get a job over some law school graduate because law schools teach you maybe, MAYBE, 3-5% of anything you actually use when you practice.
Anyway, back to the salary complaint. So, I have all of this debt, like all of my fellow colleagues, and yet I make a very poor salary. There are countless articles online explaining how great lawyer salaries are, especially in big law jobs. First, those high paying jobs are the province of the miserable. They also drive the average up. A skillful glance at salary listings on websites (or even job postings on Craigslist) show the average salary for attorneys in the Philadelphia area to be between $35,000 to $70,000. Personally, I have never earned more than $50,000 as an attorney. While that may sound like a lot to some people, keep in mind I could be earning that same salary without the stress and the debt. In fact, I have seriously looked into getting a job at Trader Joe's, a grocery store chain, just so I could earn more money.
Not all attorneys make crappy salaries. I know some very successful attorneys, including a handful of millionaires, but they are the exception. According to this article, "the average starting salary for law school graduates declined from $72,000 in 2009 to $60,000 for 2011," but that includes big law firm salaries of the low six digits, which prop those numbers up. Regular law firm salaries are "between $40,000 and $60,000," which was the historic range - those numbers are decreasing.
Most of my clients, including clients with only high school diplomas, make more than I do. Yet, I still have the same bills as everyone else, and, oh yeah, that giant student loan debt that will follow me to my grave. Had I taken my undergraduate degree and just started working, I would likely be earning a comparable, or more likely better, salary than I am now, minus the mountains of stress, debt, and contentiousness that exists in my current profession.
Many attorneys agree with my sentiments, even if they haven't read them, because they are living through the same thing. I know I am not alone. One attorney I know took a pay cut from her already crappy salary to go work for the state, because she could no longer stand private practice. A few months before she made that move, we had lunch, and expressed our dissatisfaction to each other without actually coming out and saying that we hated our jobs. That's a shame. I don't think I will keep quiet about it anymore.
I am usually not one to share my personal problems in a public forum, but it is my nature to try and help people. It's why I wanted to become an attorney in the first place, the fool that I am. If you are a person considering law school and you happened to find this blog, take my advice - find something better to do with yourself. Unless, of course, you are an asshole, in which case, your people are waiting.
(the above handsome fellow is not me)
Monday, August 26, 2013
Now into it's fourth season, I think I've lost interest in the show, and perhaps the show has lost interest in itself. The conflicts just seem to be shoehorned in now (Jim and Callie can't agree on a wedding date! Jim's estranged father shows up!), but worse yet, the plots go by a clearly defined pattern which never shows deviation. Sometimes the plots are interesting, but at this point, I doubt I'm going to finish out the season. With six episodes in my DVR, so I want to give another six hours of my life to this show? Especially when I have so few hours left in my life? Surely I have to catch up with Breaking Bad.
Anyway, if you are an aspiring Hollywood writer and would like a job working for The Glades, just follow this story structure and you will be set:
Opening showing two strangers finding a dead body
Jim and Carlos are on the scene examining the corpse
Jim rounds up exactly three suspects, is completely disrespectful towards all of them
A problem arises involving Jim and/or Callie's personal life
Jim bounces back and forth between the three suspects
Every suspect is accused of murder each time Jim sees them
Jim begins arresting and releasing his suspects
Jim and/or Callie resolve their issue
Lab analysis or bank record reveals critic clue
After repeated trial and error, Jim finds the real murderer
Murderer confesses, explains crime without asking for attorney
Two FDLE cops show up to arrest murderer
Wrap up of episode
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Thursday, July 18, 2013