Why Don’t You Just Go to Sleep Earlier?

I’ve been thinking about dictating this particular blog entry on my recorder for quite some time. But I’ve been putting it off. Why? Because I have maybe three God damn hours to myself each night. I spend that time reading, playing video games, working on my chess a little bit, and also trying to record my podcast and do postproduction work on it.

In a way, I probably shouldn’t even be writing a blog. Clearly, I don’t have enough time to fit it in, in between all the other activities that I desperately want to do. And yet, the day times are filled up with work, obligations with my twin boys, spending time with the wife, preparing meals, and doing chores. It doesn’t really leave a lot of time for the things that are “important” to me and me alone.

And so what will I do? Well, if the kids don’t wake up in the middle of the night, that means that I at least have the evenings free to myself it and so I binge on TV and books and games late at night, sometimes until 12:30, or 1 o’clock in the morning. This wasn’t a problem when I was 22 years old, and starting grad school. I would stay up till three in the morning, sleep until 11:30, then proceed to make my first coffee of the day. Check my emails, very gingerly make my way to the University, grab my Starbucks, and start my day at a respectable 1PM.

This is no longer a luxury that I have, as one of my boys will invariably wake me up by 6 o’clock–maybe 6:30 if I’m lucky–each and every single day without fail. Staying up until 1 o’clock in the morning is suddenly a serious physical and mental hazard.

I suppose there’s a bit of solace in that I’m not the only person doing this. A friend shared an article on Facebook all about “Revenge Bedtime Procrastination” and how it’s a growing phenomenon, particularly during Covid-19 times. The long and short of it is that people engaging in this behaviour may lack self-regulation or self-control, or otherwise be shoehorned into a schedule that does not fit their chronotype (e.g., they are simply “night owls”).

Of course, it goes through all the traditional saws about how to overcome sleep procrastination. Having a very rigid go to bed and wake up time, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, restricting your screen time, etc. etc. etc. What is always curiously omitted from all of these “helpful” articles is any critical analysis of why it is exactly that you don’t have enough time during the hours of the day to accomplish the things that are meaningful to you. Well, for most of us it’s because we work forty hours from Monday to Friday.

I think David Graeber’s “Bullshit Jobs” does a really good job highlighting why most of those forty hours are probably wasted doing mundane pageantry disguised as work, for the purposes of appeasing a boss who may as well liken themselves to a medieval landed gentry. But even at a more fundamental level, why do we need to work forty hours a week? The origins of it, as best as I can tell, are that forty hours was set as a maximum during the labour movements of the 19th century, to stop factory owners from working their labourers down to the bone, like a highly advanced stock animal. In other words, forty hours was never seen to be the optimal level of a work week; it was seen to be the maximum amount that a Victorian employer, sweethearts that they were, could exploit you, before the sinews and flesh on your body began to break down.

Now, I don’t want to make a mountain out of a mole hill. I work as a lawyer, I do office work, so I’m certainly not going to physically perish from the work that I’m doing although there are certainly days when it feels like it is crushing your mind, spirit, and your soul. But to even question the fact that your priority in life should not be all the work that you do, makes you be seen as some kind of subversive, or just dismissed as being terribly lazy.

Probably both of those are true at this stage in my life. But given that I live in a country where very few of us do actual work to feed us, or produce the things that we consume on a daily basis, like other durable goods, I really do question the broader social utility of all of us bashing things on laptops and sending data across the Internet back and forth. Kind of like what I’m doing right now, only for money.

So why not just go to bed earlier? Because I have important, utterly worthless things to do.

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Banks, the CMHC, and the NHL: towards an egalitarian future?

This is an idea that I’ve had rattling around in my head for a long time. Those of you who read my blog during its first iteration back in 2013 may remember an idea I had for an alternate to the Stanley Cup playoffs. This was in the event that an entire NHL season was cancelled, which seemed like a very likely outcome at the time. I proposed that we had in all amateur tournament, with thousands of entrants across North America, each with a chance to vie for a Stanley Cup.

Everyone really likes an everyman story, and yet we don’t seem to cultivate a world that is actually going to produce them. This is a very interesting phenomenon, particularly as it relates to pro sports. Tens upon thousands of athletes train from when they are small children to fully formed adults, for the infinitesimally small possibility that they are one day going to be able to play at a professional level, and make millions upon millions of dollars. It sounds glamorous and it sounds amazing. Maybe it is. What I find incredulous about this fantasy is that we are all aware that because the chances of making it at a high professional level are so incredibly small, the fact of the matter is that thousands upon thousands of young men and women (and if we’re being honest, most pro sport mega-millionaires are men) are taking a physical toll on their bodies and sacrificing time with friends and at school, to chase after a dream that is about as foolhardy as blowing an entire paycheque on lottery tickets. But does it have to be this way?

For example, in an alternate reality, wouldn’t it be just as likely that instead of having, say, 1,000 men playing in the NHL each making at least at league minimum salary of $500,000.00, you instead were to have 10,000 players in a league with 300 teams, where the league minimum was $50,000.00? Perhaps there was a higher ceiling for salary, perhaps there wasn’t. What if in exchange for a very hard salary cap for teams, there was an increased likelihood of being able to earn a decent living from playing a sport? If a professional team’s budget was a mere fraction of what it is today, then ostensibly it would be possible for a lot more teams to exist, and more people to play professionally at whatever the “highest level” of sport was. In turn, with a much larger labour force, it seems to me that you could allot funds in a much more egalitarian way to protect players in the unfortunate event that, say, they suffer a career ending injury that prevents them from being able to continue on with a remunerative career. Right now, for the most part, if you suffer an injury as a young prospect drafted into the NHL, what chance do you have of being able to make money down this path? It’s really just a case of too bad, so sad.

Okay, so what does this have to do with mortgages? Well, forgive the way that my brain rambles on in random, discursive paragraphs. But I keep seeing these ads for mortgages popping up on my Facebook timeline. Apparently I can refinance my home and get mortgage interest rates of 1.25%. Unbelievable! And actually, for me it would be impossible. Why? Because these low low rates are only available to people who get CMHC mortgages. In Canada, that means that the buyer has put so small of a down payment down on the property, the lender won’t seriously consider giving money to these people unless the entire thing is rendered a guaranteed investment by an insurance program propagated by the government. Yes, you read that right: the best interest rates in the country are reserved for those mortgages which — in the eyes of a prudent investor — carry the absolute highest risk of default, and are therefore the worst possible investment. But the government is willing to cushion these risky investments, in order to protect people who want to buy a home, and in order to make sure that people are willing to lend money to them. Who are we kidding? They are protecting lenders. We bail out banks in our society, not bank customers. Everything about a mortgage lender’s operation is about apportioning risk, and making sure that they minimize the risk of their investments, and adjust their rates according to the risk of a default. And so, it stands to reason that they can give their lowest interest rates to something that’s a sure thing.

Alright, circle back: what does this have to do with hockey? Well, I don’t think it has to do with hockey. It has to do with what any of us choose to do for work. Becoming a professional athlete, notwithstanding where your heart wants to take you, is a very stupid endeavour (in Canada, in 2021) because of how risky it is. If we organized our society in a way that the likelihood of facing financial ruin from going “all in” on a dream like professional sports was greatly reduced, then obviously will be a less risky proposition. But there is no CMHC insurance for people that want to be professional athletes, or painters, or comedians, or social workers, or any one of tens of thousands of occupations that, in my own subjective opinion (and everything that I write is my own subjective opinion, but I still feel this anxious pit in the hole of my stomach that says I have to explain that to you very explicitly) provide so much entertainment and joy and positive energy to the world, that people want more of them. A banker and a lender mortgage company do comparatively little of that, if any. And yet we have organized our society in the way that they are the ones shielded from risk.

I’m always forming ideas for essays and articles and books where I can postulate what a more egalitarian view of professional sports would look like in practice. I choose sports, because it’s such a small microcosm of our greater society writ large. Obviously, the same ideas on espousing for pro athletes could be extrapolated more broadly to any job. But I don’t know that there’s any appetite for it. People chasing that one in a million dream of being a multi-millionaire, in my estimation, don’t want to instead chase that one in a thousand dream, let’s say, of doing the exact same work and making a decent living wage. At least I don’t think so. At least not now.

In the meantime, I like to fantasize about what it would be like if we had a 300 or 500 team NHL, where every single Podunk town big enough to build an arena could also have its own top tier professional franchise, and have some way of being put on the map by the success of its local franchise. I think that would be really cool. But in the meantime, here in the “real world,” I know that instead I’ll shop around for different rates on refinancing the mortgage on my house, and realize that I won’t qualify at the same interest rate as someone that puts $25,000.00 down on a $500,000.00 home. Because that longshot investment has been given insurance backing by the government. God forbid that institutional lender has to suffer the same trials and tribulations — the same risk — as a young kid trying to pursue a sports dream.

Miracle Whip? Miracle Unwhip?

I have been very interested as of late in the psychological theories behind Transactional Analysis, a psychological school of thought developed by a fellow Canadian, Eric Berne. Essentially, it breaks down the human psyche into three different parts: the child, impetuous and feeling wronged; the parent, stern and lecturing; and this sort of third, neutral character, which is like a self loving, confident adult.

The child psychically represents the trauma of one’s own childhood in our minds, remembering all of the hurt and “unfairness” of things which fell outside of its understanding as a child. Some of it, to be sure, is not in any way shape or form abusive. If I stop one of my sons running onto the highway by grabbing his arm very strongly, he may remember the pain and fright of the moment, while retaining no memory of the fact that he was almost clipped by a semi. The stern parent is often a reflection of that seminal image of one’s own parent, lecturing and making orders and demands. To some extent or another, every parent does this. The question is to what extent we live with the hurt of our childhood. As we get older, we often emulate that same stern parental voice that we were child, both with their own children and with ourselves.

I often refer to this phenomenon as “whipping” myself. Often times, when I want to get myself into a creative endeavour—this blog, for instance—or I want to do something for my own self betterment, like going back to the gym, or drinking less, or just losing weight, I feel the need to “whip” myself in order to get myself on the track. I know that something is good for me, and if in the moment I don’t feel like doing it, the natural solution is to push myself a little bit harder, just like a stern parent might push you to do something that you don’t feel like doing (I remember those days of my mom shaking me out of bed at 8:00 AM, to get to school relatively on time). But in the long run, this strategy is doomed to fail. And of course, most creative endeavours fail. Most diets fail. Most quests for self betterment fail. And the argument goes that they’re based upon this parental archetype, which is inherently doomed to fail.

I watch a lot of hockey, and read a lot about transactions in the NHL. Think about the short shelf life of a very aggressive, mean coach. I think John Tortorella is the prime example, although in old age she seems to have mellowed out and changed his style. But the old saw goes that a very aggressive coach will come in, “whip” the players by doing bag skates, benching them in shaming exercises, and just generally being very mean and nasty. This works in the short-term, but analysts often say that aggressive coaching like this has a very short “shelf life.” Why? Because although it does create some initial motivation, eventually you’re just going to tune it out. I’m only going to do the very bare minimum to get that angry coach, that angry parent, to get off my ass. When I’m running purely on negative fuel and bile being spewed at me, eventually, I’m just going to tune out that voice. Go ahead. Yell at me. I’m done doing the bag skate.

And so, the theory goes that motivational energy needs to come from a different place if it’s going to be useful with regards to motivating ourselves to do better things. Problem for me is, I don’t know what that positive energy looks like from a motivational standpoint. Hopefully one day I can figure it out. It feels so obvious to me that you need some level of stern authority, or else you’re never going to actually get anything done. If I only quit smoking (to give an example) on the days that I feel like it, and light up every time I feel like doing that instead, you could see how you’re essentially spinning around in circles, giving gas to one tire but not the other three, and nothing ever gets done.

Which leads me to a difficult impasse I’ve not been able to surmount: if not whipping, then what?

What do I feel in my stomach (besides cabbage)?

I have a complicated, love-hate relationship with mindfulness meditation. I’ve been doing it on and off for about three years. I did it religiously for the first three or so months of the pandemic. After that, it became a real chore to do it each and every single day. But I still did it for about another month or two. The irony of forcing yourself–performing mental self flagellation, with the end goal of being self compassionate and aware of how you are feeling–is not lost on me.

One of the purported benefits of mindfulness meditation is the ability to tune in with the somatic experiences of the body. Put more succinctly, sometimes when you’re stressed out by the stories inside your head, your stomach starts to hurt too. But it’s interesting to think of the times where there is a serious physical sensation going on because of stressors or other things going on in your head, and yet you’re somehow blissfully unaware of it.

What that leads me to believe is that in fact there are several streams of consciousness that operate at any single point inside of your head. We simply allow ourselves to believe that our consciousness is formed as one clear, cohesive narrative at any one point in time. More likely than not, it’s a tapestry of different ideas and thoughts bubbling and surfacing from here or there, in no particular order, without rhyme or reason. That’s unsettling for people like me that like to seem as though they’re in complete control of their thoughts, body, and actions. The idea that your body can be providing feedback on something that you don’t even know is stressing you out, because a part of your consciousness is operating at a level that doesn’t allow you to access it.

And so one of the things that I’m trying to work on now is just paying attention to the different somatic experiences as I go through my day; noticing how I feel when I’m angry at someone, when I’m feeling down on myself, or when I’m just having a good time and feeling pretty happy with how things are going. I will say colloquially from time to time that I don’t really feel “much of anything.” But “nothing” isn’t really a feeling, per se. Obviously I’m feeling something, but the difficulty’s in finding out what those feelings are, and being able to sit with them and describe them qualitatively.

I have been assured that this is a long process, and that it takes time to develop the skill to be able sit and pay attention to how one is actually feeling, and be able to notice it. However, as with most things in life, I am decidedly impatient. I don’t know how impatience feels inside of my stomach. Yet.

Clothes Make athe Man [more or less]

As I sit down to dictate this particular blog post, I just finished stitching up one of my favourite, old, weathered sweaters. It is black with grey horizontal stripes. I have no idea where I got it, although based on most of my wardrobe, I would have to guess that my mother bought it for me, and since she bought it for me she probably got it at the Moores near our house where I grew up.

In any event, after years of wearing it, like an old folded, creased piece of paper, or a worn baseball glove, it just happens to fit very comfortably on the contours of my pear-shaped physique. So when a seam burst open on the right sleeve of the sweater, I decided to go ahead and do my best to patch it up myself. I did a bang up job, if I say so myself, although I did use a bright pink thread just so I could see where exactly my thread lines were for future reference, and to see if I didn’t especially good job [I didn’t].

Earlier this week I had to do zoom meeting with clients. I hate video meetings. I hate meetings of any stripe, but that’s a different matter entirely. What was interesting was I wore a golf shirt to this particular meeting, where prior to the work at home order, it would’ve been blasphemy had I worn anything less than a suit.

Why is it that expensive clothes convey importance? I don’t have any good answers, I just have the questions. It seems to me that many of my lawyer friends feel obliged to wear suits, because richer, more important lawyers have done it in the past. It’s a sort of “fake it until you make it” sort of mentality. If the senior partner wears a grey suit with a great tie and black dress shoes, then I must emulate his behaviour until I become like him.

And yet, while this exercise in behaviorism goes on, we all tacitly acknowledge that, whether I wear a beautiful, handcrafted Italian suit, or my favourite pair of grey sweatpants and this old, tattered sweater, I am in effect the same lawyer. The same professional. The same mind. Despite this, if you saw me in my grey sweats and sweater like how I dress around the house on a Saturday afternoon, show up to greet you at my offices, even the most open-minded among you would probably stare mouth agape.

I’m not stating anything new by saying that there is a social and political hierarchy behind how we dress and how we costume ourselves for work. One need only think of uniforms in the military and in the fast food world. But what conformity do we seek to achieve with our “business professionals?” Is the suit a form of intimidation? Or is it something more akin to commodity fetishism, in that the sheer expense of having to get a suited wardrobe demonstrates that you are already rich and powerful, to the point where people covet the costume itself as much is the power which it exemplifies? Anyone who worked in the same office building as me can attest to the fact that I pushed “business casual” to its very limits, the same way that Gustav Mahler pushed tonality to its natural limits.

And if I didn’t care so much what other people thought of me, I just might have pushed it even further.

What you don’t know can (and does) fill a Library

There is a lot of people who say that on the Internet “all of human knowledge is available online.” This is of course true, but that in and of itself is not very useful statement. It’s the same as saying that all of human knowledge is found on planet Earth.

The real problem, as best as I can tell, is that anything that is exceptionally useful information—medical journals, patents, technological research, the latest intricacies on tax law or banking law written in monograph form—these things are housed behind pay walls and in databases and in pay per use journals. As an alumni to two different universities here in Ottawa, I figured I would have the advantage of being able to use their library systems in order to find the information that I was looking for on a new research project. Failing that, I also have access to the CCLA library which is located inside of the Ottawa Courthouse. However, what I’m finding is that it’s increasingly difficult to find even books on subjects of which I have interest.

One particular tome on banking law that I’ve been searching for, is available only as an online electronic monograph, with the latest version having been published in 2015. If I want to actually borrow a paper book, read it at home and take notes on my own desk, I think the latest version that I’ve been able to find even from an academic university library dates from 1989. Obviously for something related to jurisprudence, that is simply unacceptable.

I suppose none of this in and of itself should surprise anyone; if something is of great knowledge and value to people written large, then of course someone is going to hoard it and create some form of scarcity. I just find it odd that we live at a point in time in history where people think that all human knowledge is available and accessible, when in reality the only things that most human beings can access is complete and utter drivel. It is very easy for most people to find information about last night’s NHL scores or what has happened with the Kardashians. It is very difficult to find information about how a securities exchange works, and the regulations and statutes behind it. Oh sure, you could just print out the statute, read every single line of the statue, read every single regulation attached to it, and then try and read the myriad of case law that accompany it. In theory, all of that is, in fact open source. What is not open source is any sort of useful synthesis of this information, such that it is actually useful to most of the human race.

And so at a certain point, most of us would probably break down and pay money for this information. I’m looking at a version of this book that I’m particularly interested in and it cost $70.00. $70.00 for something that is about the size of a John Grisham novel, and probably comprises all of $0.15 worth of paper and pulp.

I think the real lesson from all of this is to think about what information we can access freely, and wonder whether or not it’s been placed there because of piracy, because of someone’s benevolence, or because it’s complete and utter garbage, and therefore has no business hiding behind a pay wall.

Like this blog, for instance.

Dictated But Not Read

I’m always been fascinated with the idea of voice dictation as opposed to typing. And it’s not because I’m an especially slow typer. But it’s about that elusive promise that I can come up with ideas and be creative wherever I go, without being tethered to my keyboard or my laptop. And yet, as I dictate this into my tiny little Dictaphone, I’m sitting on a chair in my basement, right in front of my laptop, where could just as easily typed everything that I’m dictating right now. But this is really more of an exercise in practicality.

I have a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking that I bought for my law practice a few years ago. For the most part, I really enjoy using it, because when it’s used properly, I find that it’s a lot more efficient than actually sitting down and typing lengthy letters, or court pleadings. The hardest part is getting used to actually voicing out each and every one of your punctuation marks. The end result being that you end up speaking without a lot of inflection or intonation in your voice, not unlike a robot would. It’d be nice if I could dictate the same way that I speak, in a very free-flowing fashion, and then have an actual human being figure out what should be a sentence what should be a comma, And where each and every one of the ideas should break and separate from the others although I suppose I would pity that poor soul that would have to take my word salad and somehow recombinase it into working prose.

Very well regarded writers throughout history have dictated stuff. Leo Tolstoy, Winston Churchill, even a few modern-day authors, such as Stephen Hawking, who had to dictate for obvious reasons.

Interesting factoid about the term “dictated but not read.” You’ve heard it a bunch of times in movies and old books, and although the plain meaning is obvious, you lose a lot of the cultural context when you hear it. What “dictated but not read” means, is that the letter or missive that you are reading was of such little importance to the person who dictated that, that he couldn’t be bothered to actually proofread whatever it was that the transcriptionist had produced for him. And I say “him,” because historically I would imagine it was always a man, dictating to his female Sec., who was expected to be a gifted typist with a knowledge of diction and grammar. In Dale Carnegie’s “how to Win Friends and influence People,” Carnegie recalls a story of somebody that he wanted to interview [I don’t remember exactly who it was, or what the context was] and he typed up a letter to him but decided to include the postscript “dictated but not read.” The reason was to make it seem as though he was somebody who had a transcriptionist, and therefore make himself important. However, the net result was that he alienated the recipient of this letter, because in making himself feel like a big shot, he actually sent a tacit message that this person was so beneath him that he couldn’t be bothered to take the time to make sure that the letter was actually properly crafted to his standard.

So is that my goal by dictating these blog posts? Am I just trying to throw out a word salad as quickly as I possibly can, with no regard for a potential audience? I suppose that’s one way of looking at it. Really, though, I feel like it has more to do with the fact that sitting in front of a keyboard looking at a blank Microsoft Word document, with that flashing cursor burning into your retina, is just so soul sucking and draining the being able to untethered yourself from your laptop really does feel like you are breathing the air of another planet. And so much of my professional work is spent obsessing over the correct use of words and the correct use of grammar, that I end up writing comparatively little to the amount of time that I spend on it. It seems that for every minute I spend writing, I spend about 25 minutes editing. When you get so filled with self reflexive anxiety that you have to carefully craft and nuance every text message and email that goes out with your name on it, what are you even doing?

And so, in that spirit I’m going to try and very gingerly edit this blog as I reboot it, some seven years or eight years after my last blog post. Does that mean it’s going to be entirely “dictated but not read?” Well, no. I guess in that sense, the title of this blog post is a bit of a lie. But I’m going to try and make a conscientious effort to only do the utmost minimal editing, where it completely and utterly obliterates the sense of what it is that I’m dictating. So, for example if I was dictating a post on music, and I said that I listened to the film “Hitler on the roof,” I would probably go back and change it to the correct word. Except right now, as I was trying to make a point.

I also have a podcast, which of course raises the question, “why can’t you just narrate into your microphone, and release it as a podcast?” I suppose I could do that as well. But sometimes, I prefer to see the written word, I think there is some ideas that are better conveyed in writing than as an audio recording. I feel this incessant need to put out ideas and my opinion as often as I possibly can. I suppose it must be in accordance with whatever subconscious values guide my everyday decision-making. But I haven’t quite figured out what that is yet.

Well, that took 11 minutes to dictate. I wonder what the end word count is owing to be. In any event, if this workflow works properly, they may try putting more blog posts like this out in the future.

Articling, and the Law Practice Program (LPP) in Ontario

I don’t update my blog very often, as is plainly obvious by scrolling down. I’ve been busy with work and school, and the things that I feel need to be said can usually be handled in an acerbic tweet or Facebook status. But this is more hefty. I’m in the last year of law school (as many of you already know), and while most[?] of my fellow third year students have their articling positions for next year signed, sealed, and delivered, I’m still searching for mine. And I know I’m not the only one.

Today Nathalie Des Rosiers, uOttawa law school’s new common law dean for 2013-14, held an informal Q&A session in FTX 106 (the little conference room by the secretariat). So informal, that I was the only one there when I first arrived! I introduced myself, told her who I was, and the rut in which I found myself. She was quite sympathetic and quite frank, neither of which I had expected, to be honest.

First off, she assured me that it’s too early in the game to start panicking. A lot of firms will be making a hiring push come January. She said she’s heard stories of cold calling firms working quite successfully; I countered with stories where it completely alienated said student from the firm, with someone telling them never to call back. She admits it’s a tactical decision to be made.

Second, I was told that the number of students who can’t find articling positions has remained steady at between 5-7% across Ontario, even as enrolment increases. 300 students in our class, that means, what? 15-20 of us won’t secure articling by May? Perhaps a few will do an LLM, some have other jobs lined up in finance, policy, or whatever. Some may never have had any intention of practising law to begin with. Who knows?

Ms. Des Rosiers highlighted the same cognitive dissonance as our former Dean, Mr. Bruce Feldthusen,  something that I also thought of independently. The law society and academics keeps telling us there’s access to justice issues in law. Established lawyers say we’re churning out too many new JDs. Either someone is lying, or there’s an extreme market inefficiency that needs to be addressed and corrected.

Law Practice Program:

I wanted to know as much as I could about this alternative to articling. To be blunt, everything I’ve heard about it to date was shit. The standard line circulating in the blogosphere and through law school was something like this:

The LPP is 8 months, where instead of making money as an articling student, you’re PAYING MORE MONEY to your law school, to have four months of in-class training, which consists of be transported to Thunder Bay in the dead of winter, to study at Lakehead. This is followed by a four month internship, where some law firm will exploit you for free labour, leaving you less experienced and further in debt than articles.

Moreover, there’s the shame of being the non-articling student LPP student. You didn’t get your articles, did you? Maybe it was because your grades were poor? Or you’re lazy? Or you’re just so socially awkward and inept, that no one dared bring you into their office and have you within a country mile of a paying client? In effect it’s like the breakfast club for disadvantaged children in grade school; sure, you’re offered a nutritious meal, but no parent or child wants the stigma of people knowing they’re poor, and so it becomes an underutilized service.

I had gone into this meeting, thinking there was no chance in HELL that I would choose this option. What the dean told me didn’t completely flip my position, but it has piqued my curiosity. Here’s what she could tell me about the process:

– An RFP was put out last year for different institutions (firms and schools) who wanted to provide the LPP program. The two nameless final candidates are both located in Toronto (i.e., Lakehead was not one of them.). As well, uOttawa is proposing to provide the LPP program for any candidates who wish to take it in French.

– Rather than ship us out to Toronto for the process, much of the four-month program would be distance education, with courses provided through online assignments and individual study, supplemented by occasional trips for workshops and assignments in Toronto. Ergo, relocation is not necessary for the program.

– My memory is a little fuzzy on this point, but apparently there is a fee associated with articling programs (paid by the students? The Principals? I don’t quite remember.) I guess it’s paid by the students, because apparently everyone pays for it, regardless of whether they do the LPP or the articling option. The idea is to shoulder the cost across the entire legal community, so that students who choose this route are not footed the entire bill.

– The goal is to have paid placements for these mini-articles. It looks like they’re unable to guarantee that they will be fully compensable, but our dean assures us that the goal is to have some form of remuneration for the four months you put in.

The Practicalities:

Well, it’s all well and good that it isn’t the Draconian punishment that I once thought it to be, but how does it compare to articling? Will I be branded a loser before I even have the chance to ruin my reputation in court? Dean Des Rosiers optimistically thinks not. Apparently, when a similar two-tiered system was in Australia, the LPP option quickly eclipsed articling in popularity. She also pointed out that not all articling positions are created equally. Regardless of your philosophical view of the matter, there’s no dispute that articling for a sole practitioner working out of home will be a different educational experience than articling at one of the seven sister factories on Bay Street. It just is. In that respect, the LPP offers something of a “quality control,” in the sense that all of these students will receive the same education and curriculum, with the oversight of the Law Society of Upper Canada. Whether that means better, worse, or a juste millieu remains to be seen.

There’s also a component of professional development and “running a law business” built into those four months. In a sense, as the dean put it, if you know there’s a particular niche market you want to serve, or you know that you want to work as a sole practitioner running your own business, this is a chance to get some knowledge about the business aspect of it, and start earning an income two months earlier than your friends articling. So there’s an argument to be made for it in that way, as well.

Will this take away from certain small firm articling positions? Will opportunistic lawyers use this program to deflate the costs of their articling program? Dean Des Rosiers admits that LSUC will be “seeing how the market reacts” to decide whether or not something like that will happen. My own personal view, I don’t see how it could. You still have to use resources to train these students, and if you only get them for four months instead of ten, I can’t see the economics of how that would benefit them.

Conclusion:

I don’t know if I want to become a guinea pig for the LPP program. We will find out in the next few weeks what precisely it’s going to look like. What I do know is that it sounds a lot less horrible than I thought it would be, and that it sounds a lot better than the “Hail Mary” articling options which I had been contemplating for the past couple of weeks, in the event that nothing comes along by say, January or February. The career counsellors told me that the articling hunt is a lot like dating, in that I will die unloved and alone it’s a personality fit. It’s not just about the raw CV elements, like my grades (which are good), or my extracurriculars (of which there are several). It’s about finding great individuals who really speak to you as mentors, that you think you’ll develop a rapport with, and who will guide you through the untested waters of well, pretty much the rest of your life.

I still hope to find an articling position, to find lawyers with an experience and philosophy that really speak to me, and who want to take me on as a student and train me. But in the event that I don’t find them (or don’t find them within the year), I’m not scared any more. I really would like to thank the Dean for sitting down and having such a frank chat with her students, and giving me some peace of mind today.

Who wants to start a band with me?

Alternative title: can I join your band?

I did two degrees in music…ology. I’ve never been a performer, although I sing in my church choir. I also play piano, and the pipe organ, but not well.

I’ve always wanted to write music, but it’s never happened. I studied harmony, counterpoint, and did two years of composition. Nothing really helped me to find my voice, or figure out what it is that I wanted to write. I don’t think this is something that I can do on my own, as evidence by the number of times I’ve given up at it. People have invited me to jam with them in the past, but I always seemed to chicken out, get cold feet…call it what you want.

Basically, I don’t think I’m very good. But at the things that I’ve gotten pretty good at in my life, I’ve failed many times before I succeeded. I think failure is a necessary precondition to success. Or accident. And I don’t think I’m going to accidentally become good at music.

I need someone who also wants to make a lot of mistakes, and wants to start a group with me. I can work on music over weekends in the summer. If anything happens, I’ll make time for it in the Fall, too. I can tell you what sort of ideas I have, and what kind of music I like.

If you’re interested, let me know. We’ll totally suck at it.

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, and how modern game makers forgot me.

I mulled over it for a long time on my vacation, and decided that the greatest game which was ever created was Konami’s “Legend of the Mystical Ninja” for the Super Nintendo.

Wikipedia Link

Those who know me in person, know that I brood long and hard about creating art, about tackling some sort of creative project, and then nothing ever comes of it. Is it that I procrastinate on my “non-essential” artistic projects? Probably; especially when school work is due. Is it that I tackle too many projects, and finish none of them? Yes, there’s certainly that as well. Is it that I’m listless and lazy, and use my unfinished projects as a shield to hide the world from my obvious charlatanism, and lack of talent?

SHUT UP. YOU DON’T KNOW ME!!!11!

Well, as I sit here on vacation in Florida, and I’ve finally had enough of sun tanning and swimming–it’s cloudy and windy today anyhow–I think of all the creative projects that I’ve undertaken, and try to parse a greater meaning out of art. Video games are art, as well. The difficulty in creating any art, in my mind, is to find something that you want to convey–the meat of the message–and to find a proper form to wrap it around. Getting both of these at the same time is no small task.

What does this have to do with Mystical Ninja?

Well, I think that if I ever want to create passable art or good art, it behooves me to figure out what sort of art I like, and why I like it:

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I’m not going to deny that some of this is nostalgia for the days when I was 7 years old and the centre of my existence was the Super Nintendo. But only some. It’s no more illegitimate than those old guys of a certain persuasion blasting their old metal albums from the 70s and 80s, and saying–without a shred of sarcasm or irony–that theirs was the greatest music of all time.

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja was the perfect game. It was a platformer based on medieval Japanese folklore, where you allied with a group of shapeshifting ninja cats to save a princess from a group of island hopping bandidos. And really, isn’t it always a princess? The animation was lively, the sound track is still stuck in my head to this very day, and the game play was fun. You could finish it in a single sitting if you had 3 hours to kill on a Saturday.

Much like an old black and white film, the supposed “technical deficiencies” of the SNES didn’t render this game any less enjoyable, or any less captivating a tale of adventure and journey. Gone With the Wind wouldn’t have been a better film with 5.1 surround sound, or 3D film. Nor would this game be better had it been designed with motion sensors or with full HD compatibility.

So what is it about this game? As best I can tell, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja represents a dying breed in two aspects: the Action-Adventure Platformer, and the Medium Story.

The first one is clear enough. It seemed since the days of the PS2 that no one wanted to have a screen hopping platformer anymore. It’s been eclipsed and marginalized by the first person shooter and the RPG. I can’t play any of the Call of Duty games where I’m a floating rifle doing target practice, because they’re obscenely boring and stupid. That’s not an opinion, that’s an objective fact.

And I can’t play any of the heady RPG games, because I find the plots to them God awful, and even when they are palatable, these are the types of games that require you to devote days, weeks, months to get your full value of satisfaction out of. Sure, in grade 7 I could devote the better part of a semester to Final Fantasy VII; that’s just not practical anymore.

Nintendo still makes platformers, thanks to its long running Mario franchise. And the linear structure of a game like “Uncharted” still fits into this vaguely defined genre that I’ve created (also, the zelda franchise, even though it’s not technically a platformer; maybe pokemon, too). But genres be damned.

What I’m more concerned about is the death of the Medium story. The Novella, the operetta. The light tale that I can lick off in a 150 pages, in 90 minutes of cinema. That’s what the Mystical Ninja was.

It didn’t attempt to be high art, and snob around a 40 hour soundtrack by Nobo Uemitsu, with a plot heavier than a Tolstoy novel. But it also wasn’t to the banal level of, say, a Fruit Ninja, or an angry birds. There was something there. You knew you were going somewhere, there was a sense of progress and purpose in taking a journey, and you were curious how it was going to end (even if you really knew how it was going to end). Platformers on touch screen devices (like Infestor from Ravenous games), are ok to play, and even decent to control on a phone or iPod, but you never feel like you’re being told a story. These are banal ways to keep your fingers busy when there’s nothing on TV.

I beat Legend of Zelda: The minnish cap for the GBA last month. Before that, Pokemon all the way back in grade 7 was probably the last game to truly absorb me with its story, and make me want to keep trucking forward and play it. It wasn’t too busy, and you travelled to different towns and different locations, but it was linear enough that you didn’t feel like you needed to defer writing your master’s thesis to make serious headways in the game.

I’m hoping to find a game for the 3DS that hits all of these marks for me. Something that’s entertaining and engaging, but not to the point of overwhelming me, or worse, boring me. I don’t want a 40-hour RPG epic. There’s the inevitable control issues that comes with a phone game or an iPad game, but that’s not for me to worry about. Get those kinks out of the way, and then come up with a good story. Better still, come up with a good story that lets me forgive how sucky the controls are, and we’ll be good!

(Hey look, I did finish something!)