Island Life by David Slack

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Island Life: Unaccustomed as I am

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  • Paul Williams,

    I don't and it doesn't appear to be easy to get - only positive result is here, a US company that does ship to Australia but not to NZ... I'm reminded of Russell's cough on another thread...

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Houseman. But for what it's worth, Huston said this:

    “The directing of a picture involves coming out of your individual loneliness and taking a controlling part in putting together a small world. A picture is made. You put a frame around it and move on. And one day you die. That is all there is to it.”

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Rachel Prosser,

    oops - Houseman! In my defence I was only 8. In my prosecution, I could have googled.

    I remember reading a profile on him - I think he was Romanian, and spoke 4 languages at the age of 3.

    Yes I could google - but where's the joy in googling everything all the time? Why not share the odd imperfect memory?

    . I'm reminded of Russell's cough on another thread...

    you've lost me?

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2008 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    Co-__torrent__-ugh

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    I remember reading a profile on him - I think he was Romanian, and spoke 4 languages at the age of 3.

    Yes I could google - but where's the joy in googling everything all the time? Why not share the odd imperfect memory?

    This reminds me slightly of the SImpsons episode in Australia where the scriptwriters spurned any research & wrote the episode around half remembered teachings from primary school. Bloody amusing.

    So anyway, without Google, Houseman also collaborated widely with Orson Welles in theatre & film & appeared later in life in one of the worst screen adaptations of one of the best books I've ever read - Peter Straub's Ghost STory.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I watched The Paper Chase at about age 8, and have been able to quote John Huston ever since:

    Ah, the Socratic method or, as an acquaintance of mine defines it, "paying through the nose so some pretentious bully can wank off in your face."

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • David Slack,

    Cost me nothing. Best method of teaching I ever had.

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I find it interesting that lawyers talk unabashedly about being inculcated with a value system at university, like it was the best thing that ever happened to them. I always saw a major point of higher education was to challenge established value systems in your own mind.

    I guess it's a lot like learning fine art. You have to learn to paint like the old masters before you can forge new and challenging art. I was required to master arguing like Socrates too (Philosophy degree), before I was ever allowed to say what I thought about him all along, which was "tricky old bugger, wasn't he, reminds me of a lawyer". An extremely poor one, judging by his court record. Strange that our system should derive so much enthusiasm for the court methods of a man who talked himself out of a small fine and into the death penalty.

    I'm not ragging on lawyers, btw. Just commenting on our amazing ability to train our minds to learn systems, and our generally weak ability to train our minds to seek truth. That will always be a very hit-and-miss affair.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • David Slack,

    like it was the best thing that ever happened to them

    It punctured certitude. I found that valuable.
    It commanded attention. I was in need of that.
    It demonstrated the elusive nature of an answer. I still believe this to be true.

    The best thing that ever happened to me, though? No. That would be either my mother teaching me to read, or discovering Border Radio on bFM.

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    It punctured certitude. I found that helpful.
    It commanded attention. I was in need of that.
    It demonstrated the elusive nature of an answer. I still believe this to be true.

    Spoken like a speechwriter. "It's a little thing called cadence", huh?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Heh, I think the best thing that ever happened to me was getting an expensive wakeup call from a nasty little old ACToid during a real estate deal. It was the most expensive and valuable education I ever got. My flirtation with that particular dogma met a lucky end right there. Now I claim no school (as they say in Kung Fu films).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • David Slack,

    I claim no school

    Not even Old?

    "It's a little thing called cadence", huh?

    In this instance, mostly paracetamol. When I go back upstairs to lie down, by the way, I'm going to read some more of those splendid stories about Don Camillo, thanks very much.

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I'm going to read some more of those splendid stories about Don Camillo, thanks very much.

    Great! Well, I'm sorry you're sick, but that you like the book is a silver lining.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    like it was the best thing that ever happened to them. I always saw a major point of higher education was to challenge established value systems in your own mind.

    I'd not have said it taught you one approach per se, in fact, it teaches different approaches and this, IMO, is the real benefit. This is particularly the case with jurisprudence which, as a student of philosophy, you'll probably be familiar.

    Consistent with Mr Slack's list, I'd add it challenged some pretty fundamental assumptions about civil society; though it may seem a banal example, when taught Land Law, I (and I'm sure everyone else) was struck by the benefits a colonial power realised by implementing a Torrens system for land management.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Rachel Prosser,

    I find it interesting that lawyers talk unabashedly about being inculcated with a value system at university, like it was the best thing that ever happened to them

    Personally, it took me a while to realise that was what was happening. I remember doing the Negotiation and Mediation course with Jane Chart in my final year of law school, where we started by reading about the fact we'd been indoctrinated.

    It was a defining moment of my legal (and other) education.

    I stopped lawyering because I'd had enough of living in the legal mindset, and doing a job which more or less required me to operate on a default setting where I had to look for faults, and be pessimistic not pragmatic. I wanted to be able to put relationships over process sometimes. I wanted to be optimistic, and take risks, and get away from the blame focus.

    A key outcome of legal training is being able to assign the blame in any situation (after the event). I'd had enough of blame. And I stopped wanting to be the person with the right answer who would ahve to tell the client how they should have done something better, even though I hadn't ever managed the operation on the ground .

    A couple of years after I left, I read Martin Seligman's "flexible optimism" which identified that pessimism was an adaptive response which worked in the legal profession, but didn't make for a happy life. I remember thinking "Yes!! I agree! That's why I left!"

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2008 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams,

    and doing a job which more or less required me to operate on a default setting where I had to look for faults, and be pessimistic not pragmatic.

    Rachel, having not practiced law I can't entirely relate but this gives some insight. I think any work can become boring if its repetitive enough.

    I find the benefit of a legal training in my work, policy, in the analytical frameworks that help identify the various forces, legitimate and otherwise, at play. Possibly the best outcome of my legal training is knowing when I need legal advice - all too often policy presumes the historical authority - and when strict legal authority won't be nearly enough.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Not even Old?

    Old skool is borderline no skool. But I wouldn't even claim that.

    Paul

    I'd not have said it taught you one approach per se, in fact, it teaches different approaches and this, IMO, is the real benefit.

    I would hope so, although many approaches taught by the same school is just a bigger framework, rather than breaking the framework. Whatever the core of beliefs that all the approaches agreed upon would constitute the paradigm of the entire training regime. A paradigm that must either be accepted, or you don't work in the Law, at least not for long. I don't know, as I never studied the law, or jurisprudence. Philosophy has it's specializations too, and mine went down a path that did not deal with ethics or politics too much.

    Rachel

    I'm curious about your realization. Did you feel that there was no way at all within the legal training you were receiving to be pragmatic, to not look for fault and blame but resolutions or even prevention?

    I ask because it seems to me that many lawyers are perfectly happy. They get a real sense of satisfaction from it. They enjoy the fighting, and especially the winning. The losing they can take philosophically, since it's usually the client who is actually eating it. And many of them even feel that they do good sometimes. Also a lot of them seem to have non-confrontational work, just looking stuff up and providing opinions etc.

    I also have received some extremely good advice from lawyers prior to making a decision, which suggests they're not always 'after the fact merchants'. If I'd just taken one old koot's advice I never would have lost my shirt to the nasty old ACToid, for instance. The lawyers who manage you through a massive transaction like buying a house are not out to blame anyone for anything, they're just making sure you can't be blamed.

    But your feeling must have been grounded in observation of the training you were receiving.

    All

    I'm not saying legal training is exceptional in inculcating a mindset that could be insidious to the ability of the mind to actually see reality. ALL training is like that, it forms filters that shape our very perceptions of the world. It can't be any other way. The only danger is not to realize this. Fresh out of university, it's quite a difficult thing to realize, that a great deal of training yourself to think, is about training yourself to ignore. That can be insidious, if taken too far.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Rachel Prosser,

    Hi Ben,

    It's a while since I did my legal training (My last lecture was the day after the Companies Act 1993 was passed - which made exam notes a pain as we'd been talking about the Bill all year).

    I've had a far from typical career trajectory as I always worked in-house, and in a public law setting. The big-firm life never appealed to me.

    I avoided litigation - I just don't like fighting. I did do some, and realised that the effective framework for many letters were along the lines "With the very greatest of respect I think you are wrong . I suggest I am right". To which the response would be. "Thank you for your letter. With the greatest of respect you appear to be wrong and I am right".

    I'd get frustrated when lawyers, on seeing a new piece of law, would point out how it could be misinterpreted not to work (rather than going along with the spirit).

    Nor was it necessarily boring, I did a lot of strategic advice type stuff and liked that, loved the community decision making meetings (for the human drama as much as anything)

    But I remember getting stuff on project teams, looking at it and thinking "hmm, would be good to get a lawyer to look at it" before realising "oh crap, that's me".

    And I remembered Sir Humphrey's metaphor:

    The Civil Service has the engine of a lawnmower and the brakes of a Rolls Royce.

    I decided I'd done my time as part of the brakes.

    Part of that was living in an OIA / FOA public environment, where you couldn't easily take risks without someone castigating you for doing it wrong, or using the cheap political trick of taking an example 3 standard deviations from the norm and presenting it as an average.

    Which isn't to say that people can't enjoy law - many do. Many of us also leave - it's very common for women in their 30s to be doing something else (men too by the look of things here).

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2008 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Rachel Prosser,

    FOA - should be FOI!

    Christchurch • Since Mar 2008 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Thx for the response Rachel. Interesting.

    I have a parallel experience. I minored in Computer Science and work as a programmer now. All the training in designing systems did not prepare me at all for the a huge part of the process of software design - all the negotiating before anything is even begun, and all the fighting afterwards. Nor was the idea firmly planted that something like 80-90% of all programming work would be on maintaining existing systems. Nor did I appreciate that getting to work on something that actually involves needing to use or understand science is a tiny minority of the work available.

    Almost all of our training was focused on making cool new stuff, to clearly defined specifications, or passing examination questions to which there were definite answers. As such, much like law graduates, we were inculcated in a mindset, which made it quite hard to actually see the real problems that we faced.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10633 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    For various reasons, I've just been re-reading this excellent post. :-) Thank you, Mr Slack.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Deborah,

    Management language is the curse of the modern world.

    That one jumped out off the page.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4311 posts Report Reply

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