Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bill Murray, esq. 

image of Mr. Murray via jjjjound.com

Bill Murray knows the value of a bike. Get on a bike and find out what Bill Murray knows.

See other celebrated thespians who ride bikes here.

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Friday, June 24, 2011


Barry Michaels and Phil Stutz ask their clients to visualize being completely destroyed by falling into the sun and being shot back back out as a powerful beam of light. I imagine it like this solar storm captured by NASA.

One of the stories which caught my attention is about something that I’ve either read, heard or seen a lot lately is really about compartmentalization. The Rabiolab podcast called Me, Myself, and Muse talks about how some authors have dealt with their writer blocks. One way, that seems surprisingly common has been for the artist to make deals with their creativity. Put another way, their creativity isn’t a personal trait or a talent, or even another part of themselves but another person entirely. This idea, of course, goes back to the ancient Greeks and the goddess Muse (those Greeks, is their anything they didn’t think up?) The modern version of this probably has a fancy schmancy psychological term that I’ll call compartmentalization.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

And I Ran... 

I listen to music when I run* and the last time I ran something funny happened. I checked my watch/Nike+ thingy (running computer?) and I was just hitting 7 KM when a song started ("Does Not Suffice" by Joanna Newsom). I happen to know this song is about 6 minutes. I also average about 5:30 to 6:00 mins/KM. I thought, "When this song finishes, you'll be at 8 KM." and like clockwork my personal odometer clicked over to 8.00 KM right on cue.

Looking at the playlist again I notice that a 5 KM run will usually land me between "Fields" and "California Stars" (Wilco) which is about 30 minutes from the start (my fastest 5 KM is about 27:30). I could almost tell you my distance by the song at this point. A longer run puts me into "The Wild Hunt" and I would have to guess a 10 KM run (which I have yet to do) would finish in the middle of "Go Do" by Jonsi.

Sometimes, because I don't always start the playlist in the same spot, I'll finish on "Move On Up" by Curtis Mayfield and no matter what state I'm in, I'll uncontrollably sprint to the end. It’s almost a 9 minute song. The drum break alone must be a minute. That is definitely a song for champions.

There’s no doubt that running is about rhythm and music can act as your running metronome and coach. You can create playlists based on BPM (beats per minute) so that you always have the right pace for a work out. I like it to be more organic and I’ve found some slower songs can have enough emotional weight to propel me forward. Another trick I’ve found is minding where you look. Watching your feet is sort of a good way to slow you down. You feel like you’re working but not getting anywhere, but looking at the horizon or skyward, makes you forget about your timing, or distance and you can just focus on your stride. Once you hit your stride, it’s almost like coasting in cruise control mode.

So that’s my running advice. Run with your head up and a song in your heart.

*there is no possible way these iPod ear buds could be louder than city traffic so it's not like I won't "hear" a car coming

UPDATE: Friday June 24, 2011, I completed a 10.6 KM run, completing 10 KM in 55:29. On schedule, Jonsi's "Go" started at around the 9.7 KM mark.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Able to Endure 

This weekend the streets of Toronto have been closed or diverted for a number of community or charitable events. One of which is the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 2 day, 200 KM ride to raise money for cancer research. I ride every day and it is a part of my life. I once calculated I ride about 250 days a year and probably ride over 3000 KM. I try at least once a week to do a longer ride, which is entirely different type of ride than my commuting one, which is short and fraught with close calls. The longer rides on the weekend though are entirely about freedom. Some middle-aged guys might buy a big motorcycle but others, like me, spend a few bucks on sweet bicycle. Whether I'm topping out at 50 KM/hr or cruising at 20 KM/hr, you'll know me by my huge, maniacal smile. Plenty of people effortlessly pass me, but after 3 or 4 hours I know I've burned up over 1200 calories, I've sweated out all the "toxins" and bad stuff, and I've injected enough oxygen into my brain to light up every synapse and nerve ending. I don't ride an engine, I am the engine. That feeling is pretty goddamned empowering.

Then you see a story like this one. Damian Lopez Alfonso lost both arms and was badly burned over his face and body when as a boy he was electrocuted trying to retrieve a kite from fallen power lines. His story of pushing himself further and achieving freedom through cycling reminds us not only of the power of sport but as Plato said, "...that the soul of man is immortal, able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil...". Seeing his joy in cycling makes me feel like a complete fool for ever feeling sorry for myself. Ever. See his story in this short video from the New York Times.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Seen in May

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in Michael Winterbottom's The Trip. The six episode BBC series has been re-cut as a feature film for international distribution

All About My Mother
Almovodar's film about motherhood refers to the film All About Eve and the play A Street Car Named Desire which also has a central role. Maneula sees her son die in a car accident on his 17th birthday just before she's planned to tell him about the father he's never known. She's also never told the father, who lives in Barcelona and is a transvestite named Lola, that he had a son. The rest of the story is Manuela's journey to find Lola and to bring some resolution and acceptance of her own grief and guilt.

Bill Cunningham New York
Bill Cunningham's columns for the New York Times have made him an icon for fashionistas and at The Times. For over 40 years his weekly "On The Street" photo essay has captured every trend and curiosity to be found on the streets of Manhattan. Who is this unassuming fellow who dresses in a nondescript work shirt and rides his Schwinn 3-speed all over New York? He's a gentleman not unlike a Jimmy Stewart or Fred Astaire floating through Gotham, camera in hand catching whatever attracts his eye. What makes the documentary so enjoyable is Cunningham himself, who could approach a queen or a pauper alike with the same joyful smile and openness. His particular talent isn't photography but the ability to spot a trend or a pattern emerging from what New Yorkers are wearing. It would be interesting to watch this with The September Issue to show how the fashion industry works both ways, from the street to the runway and back again.

Source Code
Directed by Duncan Jones who did one of my favorite films, Moon, this sci-fi flick is like 12 Monkeys (or La Jeté) meets The Matrix. An army pilot's mind is transported into the last 8 minutes of another man's life in order to discover the bomber in a disaster that's already happened. I think. The science is the end run to the question "what would you do if you only had a minute to live?" Star Jake Gyllenhall saves millions, resolves his relationship with his father and falls in love in 8 minutes. I might easily fall in love with Michelle Monaghan in 8 minutes or less. I wonder if she tires of constantly being cast as the gal next door with whom we all fall in love? By "we" I mean us Man-folk.

Another story of a highly trained assassin who happens to be a pretty young girl (like "Kick Ass" and "Let Me In" — both played by Chlöe Morentz) but this is a strange film. Was the director trying to make fun of the Bourne films and their editing style or did he just get it wrong? Sometimes it was campy as an old Batman TV episode while other times the movie seemed like there was a slick ironic wink and a nod to the audience. Either way, it was all over the place, literally jumping the viewer from Finland to Morocco to Spain and Germany, all with confusing speed and cuts. Add to that, one scene set in a secret location in Morocco is filmed in a beautiful abandoned testing facility in Berlin. I know this because it was the same location used to spectacular effect in Aeon Flux.

The Adjustmet Bureau
Another film of questionable reality like Inception or Dark City where mysterious agents have the ability to enter one door and exit in an entirely different location re-imagining the shape of the city (and re-defining the Flaneur). In that respect it reminded of the Hernandez brothers comic book series Mr. X. Matt Damon plays David, an up and coming congressman who upsets destiny and discovers the other worldly adjusters (Heavenly Agents?) who affect fate when he meets a beautiful woman, Elise, played by Emily Blunt, who inspires, intrigues and beguiles him. The same is true of Elise but she doesn't have the knowledge of those conspiring to keep them apart. The film is all about the mysterious power of love (or creepy fatalistic Christianity). It moved me but I'm particularly vulnerable to such emotional manipulations and as such you may want to discount anything I've written here.

Unforgivable Blackness: the Rise & Fall of Jack Johnson
The story of Jack Johnson, the first African American Heavyweight boxing champion. The incredible ubiquity of American racism of the early 20th century seems absurd, shocking, maddening and hard to understand. The fact that Jack Johnson smiled and laughed at those who would jeer and taunt him not to appease them but because he knew they feared him makes him seem mythical. Well read, stylish, a lady's man, and a patent holder Johnson seems like a prototypical American athletic hero. Yet the bigger the star the bigger the fall. Drinking, sex scandals, and the excess of his lifestyle caught up with him as white legislators sought to prosecute him for his relationships with white women. Many parallels can be seen with Muhammed Ali and contemporary athletes.

Harry Brown
Harry Brown kicks Gran Torino's ass. Michael Caine is a widower living in the "estates" — the UK version of North America's projects. Violent, bored, drug-using and drug selling youth terrorize locals. A good friend of Harry's is killed by members of a local gang. After being attacked himself, Harry, a former marine who served in Northern Ireland decides to take matters in his own hands. The havoc he wreaks is the physical manifestation of the frustration we all feel when we are made helpless by the world around us.

Old Joy
Sorrow is just worn out joy. Two friends reconnect on an overnight camping trip. One is married and his wife is about to have their child while the other, seemingly alone, moves aimlessly from one place or thing to another. This story is kind of like My Dinner with Andre as a road movie or a minimalist Brokeback Mountain (though the homosexuality is more of a suggested subtext rather than portrayed). Kelly Reichardt, the director, makes these minimal, quiet films that raise more questions than they answer and are generally open ended. Her film Wendy and Lucy is equally simple yet equally profound. The director's dog, Lucy appears both in this film and is the "Lucy" in Wendy and Lucy.

The Trip
A six-part BBC series with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing fictionalized versions of themselves as they tour six high-end restaurants in the North of England. Expertly directed by Michael Winterbottom and beautifully filmed, the series is a classically British mix of comedy and pathos. Their improvised dialogue and competitive impersonations provide the humour while Coogan's insecurities provide the pathos. Apparently the series has been recut and packaged as a feature film for international distribution. Highly recommended, in any format.

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