Monthly Archives: May 2012


Ueli Gegenschatz soars in a wingsuit

As of today, the Avengers is the highest grossing film of 2012, the sixth highest grossing film of all time and by and far, the highest grossing film distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.

“It was huge!  Gigantic!  Awe inspiring!” – description by Disney Exec when asked to describe the ridiculous pile of money that the Avengers has made.

To put it into numbers, this MOVIE, has earned over a billion dollars.  That’s a thousand million, or nine zeros.  A billion minutes is about 1,900 years.

This is a big number.  And last time I checked, going to see a 3D movie in the theater was $15.99, so that means a whole mess of chairs have been filled for the 2 hours and 23 minutes it runs for.

I’ve got a few stories to tell about the Avengers, but before I continue, here’s the link to this week’s soaring TED Talk.

(Note: Title at the top of the page is also link)

Date Filmed: April 2009

Length: 12 minutes, 11 seconds

Ok, quick aside back to the Avengers.

The first time I saw the Avengers, I only saw about ‘half’ of the movie.  However, the parts I DID see, was full of energy, excitement and great fighting.  It was a movie I sort of expected to see.

Why did I only see half?  Well, that’s because I decided to go gusto and attend the Avengers’ Marathon where they played the 5 movies that led up to the Avengers team up.  So starting at 11:30 in the morning, I sat through Iron Man, Iron Man II, The Hulk, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America all to climax for a midnight showing of the Avengers.

I didn’t make it.

I paced myself too.  I knew that to take quick cat naps during certain movie scenes that I didn’t care for and to be wide awake during those movies that I hadn’t seen.  It was a challenge of both physical and mental disciplines.  Of the 4 others I had gone with, I was the only one to actually make it through all the movies.  I was ready for the coup de gras, to watch the Avengers with a clenched fist bitten between my teeth.

Instead I was quietly snoring behind a pair of Incredible Hulk 3d Glasses while dressed in my Forever Lazy one piece sleeper.  If you’re going to be in a theater for 12 hours, might as well be comfortable.

It was after the second time I had saw the Avengers did I get to see the astounding dialogue and relationships that really made the four main protagonists shine.

We have:    Thor – Iron Man – Hulk/Banner – Captain America

Four characters, each with their own unique abilities and sensibilities and yet they all integrated well with each other.  No, it was more than that, they GEEKED out together.

By the term Geeked, it is in reference to the idea that they bonded individually over something that was specific to them either by study or history.  So two sci fi fans might geek out by talking about a sci-fi movie, car enthusiasts geek out at a car show, two models might geek out over a clothing line etc.

This is what I saw the characters geek out about:

Being Brainy -> Iron Man and Hulk/Banner

Being Foreign -> Thor and Captain America (Cap being a man out of his time)

Admiration of Being Strong -> Hulk/Banner and Thor

Being Mortal / Human -> Captain America and Iron Man (note: Hulk is effectively a god, like Thor)

Being Concerned -> Captain America and Hulk/Banner

Being Boastful / Enjoys a drink or two -> Thor and Iron Man

All four characters are capable of bonding with each other and seeing the evolution of how they find ways to interact with each other was an interesting exchange.  The only contention I could see is that Cap America seems a little ‘under powered’ in contrast with the three others.  However, it is in this regard where I had one disagreement with what happened in the movie (small spoiler ahead).

Captain America meets with a pair of cops and gives them a clear set of orders to help maintain the situation.  The cops ask, ‘Why should we do what you say?’ and Cap defends them all from a bunch of baddies by quickly dispatching them, the cops turn around and immediately get to work.

In the comics, Captain America wouldn’t have needed that ‘display’, rather by natural command and voice he should have been recognized as an authority.  However, it was a cool scene in the movie, so it works too.

So how is this related to TED?  Why with the Avengers breaking records everywhere, why not see what Avengers related TED talk might exist.

And after some searching, I found this TED Talk about a man and his wingsuit.  A real life ‘Iron Man’, if Iron Man only flew and didn’t fire repulsor rays out of his palms.

Gegenschatz, from Switzerland, is an obvious adrenaline junkie from the start of talk.  He begins by showing pictures of himself paragliding and breaking world records.  This interest develops and evolves towards Sky diving, and from there to base jumping and also to Wingsuit Dives.

It’s a remarkable evolution and it shows immediately that to do Wingsuit Dives, one needs to have the experience, confidence and physical conditioning that is required to do it.

This is something Tony Stark (Iron Man) never does!  You don’t see him training or stepping through middle ground like sky diving.  Iron just puts the suit on and flies around like a freakin’ jet fighter piloted by a drunk maniac.  To actually ‘BE’ Iron man, even in terms of flying alone, takes a heck of a lot of skill.

Iron Man, just makes it look easy.  He probably has some subliminal flight simulator running in the background while he sleeps in his Iron Pajamas.

One Sentence Summary

“Flying under one’s own devices is just cool.”

WIngsuit gliding is beautiful.  The video Gegenschatz plays is something out of a movie.  There’s plenty of more videos / virals of wingsuit use and all of them are quite awe inspiring.  Gegenschatz is an expert for ten years and he has many videos of flying about online.  Here’s one of them:

I’d love to try this sort of thing, but I know its not as easy as simply putting on a set of red and gold armor.  It takes dedication and probably heck of a lot of hours skydiving beforehand.

What caught me off guard

In researching Gegenschatz, I was greatly saddened to learn that he died in a basejumping accident in November 2009 (about seven months after giving this TED Talk).  I do not know how many TED Talk speakers have died since sharing ideas at TED but this is the first that I’ve come across.

He is, in one perspective, lucky that he died as he lived but it is with great sadness when thinking of how many more things he could have done.

For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been.’
–John Greenleaf Whittier

This quote for me is at its saddest when what might have been, is denied a chance at reality because of choice.

(This quote is probably passed around, who hasn’t been dumped?)


Actually, the questions that came at the end of the TED talk answered a few.  This is one of the few Ted talks where a second speaker comes out and asks the primary speaker direct questions.  When I heard her voice I immediately started looking at the audience to see who was shouting out only to be surprised that she was standing on stage.

So now that its’ been shared, what can we do?

Go out and be heroes?  Take a risk to protect someone, to care for someone?  Spend 12 hours in a movie theater and fall asleep during the big show?  Maybe train to be a wingsuit jumper and fly?

You probably already know what you’d like to do.


– Updated every Friday

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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in TED Talks


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Thelma Golden: How art gives shape to cultural change

Curses!  My sudden idea of taking a quick nap has left me starting at 2 am.  This is a blog, not homework!  (Where it is not only more common for work to begin late, but its practically recommended)  This is a frustrating start, as I have a tendency to be slow and often think even slower in the wee hours.  Bah, enough face slapping, let’s begin!

Today was something a little bit different.  I had attended an art exhibition in the afternoon where I saw the works of dozens of artists and their various pieces.  Now, it is also significant to point out that this was a student exhibition, as it grouped many of the works into assignments and thus it stems that the product I saw may be the artist’s fulfillment towards a responsibility.

However, this does not take away from the creativity, boldness and beautiful imagination that I had saw.

And so, tonight’s Ted Talk is from Thelma Golden, and the art that has inspired her as a curator.

The artistic Ted Talk can be found here:

Length: 12 minutes, 29 seconds

Date Filmed: February 2009

There are two things that stand out to me the first time I watched the Ted Talk, and then two more while I watched the video multiple times.

For one, this was WOW, if I was an artist that suited her curator requirements (which she more than hints at), I’d totally approach her.  This is amazing, not only do I get to understand her perspective from what art could be, but I also get the idea of how a curator selects which art pieces will be on display.

It is very specific to the location, it’s immediate target audience that is hopefully being drawn into the museum and through that, the curator’s own purpose and goal comes to form.  How willing is an artist to match those goals?  In other words, should an artist create work to fit ‘into’ a museum or is it better to create what they want and possibly be rejected?

This is like being an actor/actress in the movies.  I think I might have made this analogy before, but I am tired and confused so I’ll do it again.  It is one thing to be very talented as an actor but just as important, what products/services can the actor effectively endorse?  It’s where the term ‘sell out’ comes from, where the artist distorts their original vision so it can be used to sell cars or Nintendo DS’es.

Personally, I say go for it all.  Money means more time to make art and less time worrying about money.  (Oh, a sad society we live in..)  And while looking at the various pieces today, it made me think about my own artistic skills and what I ‘had’ growing up.

Today, we have so many tools to create art and so much of it could be considered ‘cheating’ compared to days of old.  You know what I was good at?  Pencil sketches and maybe understanding three dimensional imagery.  That’s it.  And I was a member of the art club!

Ok, being a member of the art club means absolutely nothing.  It’s a ‘participation ribbon’, the only evidence that I have which showed that I actually liked art in general.  Right now I feel like I’m telling a professional opera singer that I was once part of a children’s choir.

So I strayed away from making the slightest comment out of fear of showing my ignorance to any of the artists present.  What the heck could I have said anyways, “I noticed you used a 2HB pencil.  Good ol’ 2HB… heh.. heh..  Excuse me while I hide under this table now.”

I mention this because of the elephant of the room.  Golden, in working as curator with the museum in Harlem, openly uses the phrase ‘young black artist’ multiple times.  It’s the works that she has supported, and has shared and of the works that I had seen today, I wonder which pieces would be viable to her.

Which pieces would be a good fit?  And for those that didn’t, it naturally stems that there must be galleries across the world where they do fit.  Near the end Golden speaks of how global art is becoming and that is a beautiful idea.

At the four minute mark she provides an example of art to culture which no doubt gave rise to the title of the TED talk.  It’s a powerful comparison.  Art is not much different from engineering.  It starts from a historical perspective that is preexisting.  One can’t simply ‘invent’ without it immediately being compared to already working models and innovations.  To truly create art demands that a knowledge of historical references to be respected.

In other words, anything I would draw, which doesn’t look like anything it should, would be garbage.  Ever play the game ‘Draw Something’?  I play it everyday, and all my pictures are sad sad stick figures that if they were real, they would kill themselves for being so horrible.

Poor damned ugly stick figures, you are my ugly art ‘children’.

One Sentence Summary

“Question art or is it better to question influences?”

This is the first summary that is a question, but I like it like that.  The first reference she shows is from a television show (that I’ve never seen) but I do recognize the character.  More significantly, she does and its impact on her and the rest of the world.  There AREN’T many artists as characters on television, who are artists drawn towards then when becoming artists?  The most common artists we see in media are from the Renaissance, but that shouldn’t mean we should limit our studies to those alone.

I have a Varley hat, he’s one of the Group of Seven and his hometown is just outside of Toronto.

(According to this link he actually was living IN Toronto, so I have no idea why his gallery was located outside of it.  I will blame.. politics.. and ugly stick figures.)

I found his work interesting, and if I ever studied art, he might have been a starting point.  (After all, famous and from Toronto.  It is something of a commonality)

What caught me off guard

Golden talks with her arms crossed.  I smiled when she did that.  (This is also part of the two other things I noticed on rewatching)

You’re not supposed to cross your arms when you talk.  Every stinkin book on communication I’ve ever looked at says this means the person is not being ‘personable’ and is showing a closed mind or cemented stance.  And when Golden does it, I disagree entirely with the notions I just mentioned.  It actually looks like a very comfortable stance to me.

It’s the kind of stance, a curator might make, while walking through a museum and describing various pieces of work surrounding her.  I think I would really enjoy her talking about specific pieces as her enthusiasm is high but it is tempered to the kind of presentation she is choosing to create.

This presentation could easily have been 300 hours and it would not have been enough to show ‘How art gives shape to cultural change’.  Art and Culture are such huge concepts that my mind is pasted at the notion.


Is there a Eugene museum?  One where the curator is looking for things that coincidentally coincide with my interests, thus making something I might have made into a museum piece?  Well, if there were an infinite number of museums in existence, maybe I could find one.  However I just realized I used the two words ‘Coincidentally Coincide’ and now I feel great shame.

So now that its been discussed, what can we do?

There aren’t any suggestions given in the Ted Talk (specific for myself) so I’d say going out and getting some ‘art on’ would be a good start.  I fear art has potential to become the fifth wheel of entertainment as there are so many other ways people can be distracted.

We shouldn’t let that happen, not if we wish to be remembered well.  Our art today is the product of our current culture and I can only hope that we are inspired.

– Updated every Friday

(Yeah, saying Thursday was misleading)

(Finished by 3:35 AM… DI-NO-MITE!)


Posted by on May 18, 2012 in TED Talks


Joe Smith: How to use a paper towel

It’s a Tuesday!  Why the change?  I’m living the joy of volunteer work, where the effort is the best reward (some might argue ‘only’).  I am currently working as a humble crew member for a local production of Man of La Mancha.  Now I’ve never seen Man of La Mancha before and the show/story/music is great.  It’s much more ‘adult’ in nature than I would expected (see rape scene) so it’s also a bit of an eye opener.

Likewise, another ‘its so damn simple why didn’t I know this before’ TED Talk can be found here:

Length: 4 minutes, 28 seconds

Well this is just damn embarrassing.  Why didn’t I already know how to use a paper towel?  Or to be more accurate, how did I NOT know how to properly dry my stupid useless twinkie fingered hands?

I’ll be honest, there are two things I do when I go to the bathroom.  The first, I use the facilities!  (see joyful exclamation mark included for emphasis)

Ok, there are THREE things I do when I go to the bathroom.  The first part is nature’s call (if at work, this is also interchangeable with ‘play Tetris break’), the second part is I wash my hands and finally, I dry my hands.

Why I decided to distinctively break this down into three parts, I have no idea.  It is more than likely due to the reason that similar to ‘Ready.  Aim.  Fire.’ you have to put the three in a particular order for it to work.  Washing your hands, drying your hands and then using the facilities is cause for a health inspection.  (I digress.)

Now I’m a man who prefer paper towels.  It reduces waiting time to get the hell out and thereby minimizes the possibility of ‘washroom conversation’, or being the cause of delay for weird smiley guy and/or being stuck in the gas chamber of death.  It’s a lot like using a public shower where you’re more vulnerable in nature.  Don’t talk to me, don’t look at me, and for the love of god don’t smile at me.

Going to the bathroom?  Hell no, it’s more like going to a funeral.

Obviously I have bathroom issues to sort out.

Now part of this routine is that I’ll grab a hundred paper towels and hastily slap them between my hands in some futile effort to get them dry.  That’s right, I don’t stop at ONE paper towel, I pull out a screwdriver and hinge open the metal door and just take ALL of them.  They’re mine, ALL THE PAPER TOWELS ARE MINE.

And then I will slam dunk them into the garbage container on the way out, leaving all behind me in wallowing water hands.

But I don’t need to be doing this?  I could solve one of life’s mysteries (how to dry hands) just by adding a singular step to the process?  This is devil’s magic!  Witchcraft I say!  Burn the pagans!

One Sentence Summary

“Shake the water off your hands.  You idiot.”

Yes, this is two sentences (and the second is just a sentence fragment), but its so simple it had to be said.  It’s on par with ‘take off sunglasses when walking through dark corridor’ and ‘open mouth FIRST before put food in’.  It’s almost to the point that I considered this to be possible ‘lost Aztec knowledge’ that was culturally forgotten thanks to our so called superior ‘hand dryer technology’.

What caught me off guard

Joe Smith, who does a very good job by the way, teaches in a manner that is akin to a grand parent teaching a very small child.  He uses a slightly uncomfortable interaction device (this side of the room shouts ‘Shake’ and the other side says ‘Fold’), followed by an example and multiple repetitions.

There’s nothing wrong with it, it adds to the presentation time, but if it worked for the first paper towel he held up, I seriously doubt anyone was going to stand up and shout ‘LIAR!’ during the third or fourth time he dried his hands.

If I had been giving the presentation, I can envision going a completely different route of grabbing the microphone and shouting into it at center stage.

“When you wash, shake your bloody hands twelve times and then use the folded towel.” and then I’d expertly hold the mic aside and drop it to the floor.  (This might also be followed by shouting ‘Eugene has dropped the mic!  PEACE!’)

Aw, who am I kidding.  I would have added diagrams and somehow related it to chess, and once the audience was drenched in tears of boredom I would hand out paper towels for a mass demonstration.

I like the clever use of the word ‘Twelve’, in that it pertains to the highest one syllable number.  (Note: I tried counting while using this technique earlier today, and found that I seem to favor Fifteen more)


None really, however I did come across a revelation.  This revelation is that everything I know how to do is wrong and eventually there will be a TED talk to enlighten me.  Joe Smith jokes that he will return with a ‘toilet paper’ lesson someday but we know it not to be true.  You can’t shake that.

Er, not fast enough, I mean.  You can shake that thing,


I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume this isn’t what was in mind, but hey it fits with this TED Talk.  (No one saw that coming, not even me)

What can we do now?

Shake your hands, fold your paper towel.  Dry your hands.

Now if only they can create a TED talk on how to shave beards properly, I can never get it right.

– Updated every Thursday

(Er.. Tuesdays.. until the show run is over)


Posted by on May 9, 2012 in TED Talks