10,000 Hours

Neurologist Daniel Levitin made a popular statement that to become a master at anything, you have to invest 10,000 hours into practice. I’ve got a lot of talented friends who, though they make it look easy, have been doing their various things for, in some cases, decades. But even knowing this, sometimes it’s so frustrating to produce awful work during the latter few thousand hours.

Maybe it’s a matter of perspective, but I’ve been drawing for a long time, and I’m still no master. I’ve been coming away disappointed by my drawings pretty regularly. I’ve been making an effort lately to improve but I’m finding myself paralyzed sometimes by the blank sheet, and the fear of failure. It’s easy to get discouraged when you plateau. Just gotta push through it, I guess. To that end, I’ve been trying to absorb some new ideas and take in a lot of new influences, so maybe I’ll have a eureka moment soon and a bunch of new ideas will come together.

At least I hope so, because if I keep drawing lop-sided faces with unintelligible hair and atrocious shading like this one, eventually I’m going to flip out and start throwing pencils. Ugggh. Embarrassing.

Running Movie Reviews

Since it was so hot all summer, Natasha and I mostly did our exercise on the treadmill downstairs. To keep our brains awake while our feet were working, we grabbed a whole pile of movies from the library – for free! 🙂 We got, collectively, about 150km out of these films, but your mileage may vary. *smirk*

Born Into BrothelsAmazing – Photographer Zana Briski gives cameras to a bunch of children in a destitute neighbourhood of India in this amazing documentary that showcases the children’s creative talents. These kids have bleak futures, and as Zana works with them to hone their photographic eye, she works in the background to rescue them from a future in the brothels. This is an excellent documentary with a ton of deep insights into a complex human problem. No wonder it took home an Oscar! Let me know if you’ve seen it – it’s kicked off a number of deep discussions at home.

Pressure CookerAwesome – On a similar vein, this excellent documentary features students in a disadvantaged urban US high-school taking the culinary track in the hopes of winning a college scholarship. Their tough-as-nails cooking teacher is uncompromising, trying to whip them into shape so they’ll have a fighting chance to go on to a solid education. Their real life troubles make for a riveting drama leading up to the scholarship competition.

Annie HallOldschool – Though they’re hit and miss, we’ve been on a bit of a Woody Allen kick lately, so eventually we had to get to one of his most famous films. Annie Hall is about the romantic misadventure between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, who play versions of themselves in a story Woody Allen later described as autobiographical. The dialog is clever and interesting, and it’s beautiful to see them come together and fall apart. The pacing is definitely reflective of the 1977 date on the can, it’s amazing how much editing has changed since then! I’d recommend it despite it’s age – I don’t think romance has changed much since the 70’s.

Young @ HeartOlderschool – Kudos to Greg for recommending this tearjerker doc about an elderly choir club that sing covers of contemporary pop songs. The camera crew follows the singers to practices and on tour, and we get to know a little about each performer and see them shine on and off stage. Really sweet film, fun music, bring a box of kleenex. Best cover of “Fix You” that anyone’s ever done, particularly in context. Definitely watch this one.

Margot At The WeddingAwful – Don’t know what inspired us to watch this one, but I keep mixing up Jennifer Jason Leigh (From Weeds) with Rachel Leigh Cook (From Josie and the Pussycats) whenever I see their names. I was hoping from the description to watch a light-hearted comedy about wedding plans gone awry, but instead it’s a bleak, depressing look at self-destructive, compassionless sisters making a series of bad decisions and hurting everyone around them. Jack Black plays a chain-smoking pedophile. Zane Pais gets bitten on the face by a homophobe. It’s screwed up.

The VisitorUgh – Richard Jenkins plays a recently-widowed university professor who discovers that squatters are living in his New York apartment. Instead of kicking them out, he befriends them, learns to play the drums, and takes in a bit of immigrant middle-eastern culture. But what sounds like an uplifting setup comes crashing down as they end up in a legal battle to prevent Tarek’s deportation. I’m sure this was a realistic portrayal of the plight of illegal immigrants post-9/11, but it’s bleak as heck and not the uplifting story I was expecting.

Exit Through The Gift ShopMind Bending – This Banksy documentary follows graffiti artists around Europe and the US through the obsessive camerawork of Thierry Guetta, who falls in love with the danger and excitement of late-night street art excursions. Except then something weird happens – at some point this documentary turns into it’s own bit of subversive art. I suspect that the entire latter half (if not more) of the movie is a giant hoax. My mind was really twisted up trying to work out how much (if any) of it was real.

Green LanternDisappointing – I was a big fan of the Green Lantern comics when I was a kid. What made the Green Lanterns awesome were their rings that let them manifest anything in their imaginations. Every issue turned abstract postmodern as the Green Lanterns conjured up giant baseball gloves, vacuum cleaners, canning jars and zippers to rescue Earth from intergalactic invasions. The movie suffers by drawing too much from the overly-serious toned-down modern comic storylines. Hal Jordan literally only makes 4 things with his ring in this movie, two of which were conventional weapons, a sword and a howitzer. *eyeroll* So uncreative. The ending sucks, too.

500 Days of SummerSuch Sweet Sorrow – This little vignette about an unrequited love punched me right in the heart, hard.  The director jumps around from memory to memory, in the scattered way one might reflect back on their own positive and negative experiences, as Tom falls in love with Summer and struggles (and fails) to capture her heart. It’s a sweet movie, and I think everyone can relate in one way or another with Tom and his hopeless romance. The scene with the “adjusted expectations” was heartbreaking.

30 Minutes Or Less Stupid – I’m a fan of heist movies, and I like Jesse Eisenberg, and in fact those particular elements of this movie weren’t really that bad. Conceptually, this could have been a fun movie about good kids stuck doing bad deeds. But the film spends way too much time on the pathetic villains of the film, who (intentionally or not) were just uncomfortable to watch. The humour was sub-toilet, sexist, purile garbage and not long into the film I was rolling my eyes, hard.

One Piece Missing

Someone’s going to have a bad day when they get 1,999 pieces of their puzzle put together and realize the last one’s not in the box. It’s not under the table, and it’s not in the game closet. It’s on the sidewalk halfway up Carling avenue.

How Does a Jet Engine Work?

Here’s a diagram of a jet engine. The air goes in (blue) gets compressed by the turbine blades (green/purple), some fuel is burned with it in the combustion chamber (yellow) and it comes blasting out the back all hot and expanded (red). You’re driven through the air by the pressure of the hot air escaping out the exhaust.

At least in theory. Here’s the inside of an actual jet engine. It’s fair to say I don’t know what any of this does. One of the parts says “CAUTION” – although I think you should be cautious about every part. A good illustration of how diagrams sometimes skip over some essential engineering. 🙂

If I were to make an educated guess, I’d suspect that the big white thing at the bottom was an electrical generator that runs off the turbine, and other parts look like they might be fuel regulators, a lubrication system, combustion sensors, and an engine starter. But don’t come to me to fix your plane.

Changing of the Guard

A fun side-effect of dropping Natasha off at her office is that sometimes I get caught in a parade. 🙂 I caught the tail end of the changing of the guard today, as they marched along behind Parliament Hill to the bus that was waiting for them.

It’s a common misconception that these are Mounties – in fact they’re members of the Ceremonial Guard, which is an active Foot Guard Company of the Canadian Forces, that includes members of the Navy and Air Force as well as the Army. My grandfather was one of these guys! Apparently in the summer it gets pretty hot in those outfits. 🙂

Extreme Picniking

We kept noticing little bees buzzing around us as we were eating our picnic goodies at Hog’s Back Park last weekend. We hurried through the last of our sandwiches and cookies, and then one of us glanced upwards…

It was a real doozie of a hive – I’d guess it was just larger than a basketball, maybe a foot across and a little longer top to bottom? I wonder how many bees can live in a hive that big?

Ironically, I diligently checked for anthills before setting down our picnic blanket – but nobody thought to check the treetops overhead. 🙂 Lesson learned!