Monday, April 14, 2008

Career Day

Last week I spoke at "career day" at Townsend Harris High School. Each career presenter had 30-35 students in their class for three 45 minute periods. My classes were fully booked, though I was not as popular as the guy from Homeland Security. He was decked out with enough equipment and weapons to take over an entire lunchroom.

As the first group filed in, I had a vision of my favorite scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Fortunately, my teaching day went much better than that. I made some notes and had a few themes, as follows:

1. Lawyers are involved in many more things than people realize.
2. For any area of law, there are two sides. When I asked the students to name some areas of law, someone said "medical malpractice", and I noted that for every lawyer representing a person claiming a medical malpractice has occurred, there is a lawyer who represents the doctor or hospital, and "most of those lawyers know more medicine than a lot of doctors".
3. A person considering a career in law should really think about what area they are interested in, and get some exposure to it. As a general practitioner, I noted that its not just about working at the biggest firm for the highest starting salary, in a career, it's important to like it.

I also brought souvenirs......enough New York Law Journals to give one to each of the 100 students. Everyone had a different one, and I showed them around the paper. There is a section of columns by experts in different legal fields, and I asked the students to raise their hand if they found an interesting article. This was very popular, and we had discussions about.......
"proprietary rights on Youtube"
"DNA testing in posthumous paternity issues" (I actually HAVE a case with this issue)
"a trademark claim on some cartoon character I had never heard of....but the kids all had"
"the prisoners at Guantanamo"
"a products liability case involving a collapsing ladder"
"a contested will"

In each class one of the social studies teachers was present, sitting in the back. If the students were not asking questions, the teachers bailed me out by asking good questions. This happened once in each class, and having them there was very helpful.

When I have a rough day of lawyering (in other words......"every day"), I wonder how things would have been if I had gone to a Career Day way back when, and had gone to the session on "teaching". I know lots of miserable lawyers, but few (if any) miserable teachers.

Maybe I should have considered teaching. After all, one of my favorite TV shows as a teenager was "Room 222". Anyone else like that show?

I'm not quitting my day job.....but I did sign up to do another career day, later this month at Russell Sage Junior High School.

One last thing, I'm not going to do a full review, but I saw a great movie from last year, which I thought did not get the notice it deserved. It was "Freedom Writers" with Hilary Swank Rent it and let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

August Rush (Movie Review)

A few months ago my 14 year old daughter Rebecca came home from seeing "August Rush" with her friends. She said "Dad, I think this is the kind of movie you like. It's one of those movies where it might not be realistic, but if you buy into the story, it really gets you. I was so blown away that after the movie I was all spaced out." Naturally, I had her tell me the basic idea, and the things she really liked about it. On the surface, it sounded like the quintessential teenaged girl movie. A young hero who was "really cute", an older male lead character who was "even cuter", and a story about a mystical magical quest. I promised her that when it came out on Netflix I'd get it, and we could watch it together.

Last night we watched it. This is destined to be the favorite movie of many teenaged girls. And, uh, ME TOO. It was so beautiful and moving that I have added it to my 100 Favorite Movies List

My list prominently features "suspension of disbelief" movies (It's a Wonderful Life, Groundhogs Day, Fight Club, Defending Your Life, Field of Dreams, Pleasantville). Looking at the little list, I see what they share.....strongly developed, well played lead characters. People you can believe, and believe in, even amidst some "unbelievable" plot elements.

August Rush is about an 11 year old boy (played by Freddie Highmore) in an upstate New York orphanage. He is singularly driven....he wants to find his parents, and believes they want to find him. He can hear music in all things, and he believes the music is his parents reaching out for him.

His mom (Keri Russell) had been a concert cellist, driven by her father to great "success". She doesn't always see it the same way. His dad (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) was a lead guitarist and singer in a rock band, but despite being on the verge of great acclaim, he wanted out.

The two have a chance meeting, and a magical night together, but they part with only their memories. Here's a clip

He doesn't know about his son, and through some crazy circumstances, she thinks her baby died. Their lives go on, and both give up their music.

Meanwhile, young Evan Taylor (he later acquires the name "August Rush") runs away to look for his parents, and follows his musical instincts to New York City. He hears music in everything, and I guarantee you, when you see this movie you will remember "the scene when the boy conducts the sounds of NYC like a symphony".

The boy prodigy comes under the control of a bizarre man (Robin Williams), who "manages" many young musicians/street performers. He's selfish and greedy, BUT he loves and respects music, and he recognizes the boy's gifts. He is a necessary obstacle to the inexorable path of the plot, August finding and re-uniting his parents.

About three quarters through the movie I was so wrapped up in his quest that I said to Rebecca "This better have a happy ending." I knew it had to, and it's not a give-away for me to tell you.....enjoy the ride. Here's a clip where August and his father meet in Washington Square Park, when they don't yet know who they are to each other

This is not a musical, BUT throughout the movie there are superb musical performances by an array of artists in many genres. I am not musically astute enough to know HOW it was done, but there are musical themes woven through many of the songs. When the Mom is playing a classical piece on the cello, she seems to be in sync with the Dad's rock singing and playing, and with the oddly intriguing playing by young August Rush.

Much of the movie takes place in Manhattan, particularly Washington Square and Central Park. Just an added plus.

I'm convinced this movie has universal appeal, and will ultimately attain "classic" status. When I told Manny (my Dad, for first time blog readers) that I had watched a great movie with Rebecca, he asked which one. I was surprised when he told me he had seen it (though I shouldn't have been....movies for $1 in Century Village so they see them all), and shocked when he told me he LOVED it, and cried at the end!! He also pointed out something I should have realized....the Robin Williams character is similar to Fagin in Oliver.

One last clip, with a warning......the clip is kinda long, and it's the last scene in the movie, so watch this AFTER seeing the movie