Book Review: Outliers: The Story of Success

What is an outlier? According to Malcolm Gladwell and his book Outliers, an outlier is a “scientific term to describe things or phenomena that lie outside normal experience.” In the book, Gladwell points to various outliers in society, weaving a narrative that the people we see as successful are more a product of their circumstances and less a product of their intelligence and ambition.

The stories Gladwell uses to illustrate this point are broke down into two different parts: opportunity and legacy. In discussing opportunity, the first story, and one that I found pretty interesting, is the birth dates of a couple of teams of elite junior hockey teams in Canada. Of course the players are all around the same age, between the ages of seventeen and nineteen, but what stood out was the birth month of the players. The majority of players were born in the first six months of the year, which struck Canadian psychologist Roger Barnsley and his wife as odd.

Upon further investigation, it turns out the cut off age for youth hockey is January 1st of each year. Because of this, the older children tended to be bigger than those born later in the year, and in the realms of youth hockey, size often trumps talent, especially at the younger ages. This size was a de facto ranking system for some of the “all star” teams, and these all star teams had the best coaches. By the time the real talent starts showing, the bigger kids have had so many hours of additional top flight coaching that they perform better than kids that were born later in the year. Continue reading

Today’s Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

Believe me, when I first heard about the Michael Bay-produced reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I had the same reaction that most of the internet did: how dare he ruin my childhood!?!?* I prejudged the idea of the movie based on the initial rumors: that Bay was going to make them aliens and remove the “mutant” part of the turtles. Had that actually happened, I think my reaction to the movie would have been different.

*Only in the sense that my childhood could be in fact ruined by a movie.

And sure, the secondary backlash after the initial trailer landed with the new look for the turtles should have dissuaded me further, but I wanted to give the movie a chance…unlike what seems like 85% of the rest of the internet, guilty of judging the movie by it’s trailer, or the thinking that explosion master Michael Bay will somehow travel through time and remove my original experience to the original turtle films or cartoon that I grew up with. Despite the horrible reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, I trusted my gut and decided to give it a chance, and while it is not the best movie I have ever seen, it definitely exceeded my expectations.

(Minor spoilers ahead) Continue reading

Today’s Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Note: I actually saw this movie on the Thursday before it officially came out (July 31st), and I was part of its $94.3 million opening weekend. I’ve just been dragging my feet in getting this review up, pending a potential second viewing, but instead decided to check out the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot instead.  

Of the many movies that have been released so far this year, Guardians of the Galaxy was probably my most anticipated movie. Not because I am/was familiar with the characters ahead of time, but because I was interested in seeing a movie that I had little knowledge. Even though the stories of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Transformers: Age of Extinction, for example, were new stories, it was still relatively easy to see where those movies would end up, especially considering the previous movies in their respective series.

But Guardians would be different; though I knew the general premise of the movie from reading a little about it and from the trailers, it ended up being something slightly different than what I was expecting. Because of this, it is definitely one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe movies released to date, and it has me excited for some of the “deep cut” Marvel movies that are coming over the next few years. While DC Comics/Warner Brothers continues to struggle to build its own cinematic universe, Marvel/Disney  have shown how you can turn even lesser known characters into box office gold.

(Minor spoilers ahead) Continue reading

Today’s Movie Review – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

As a child of the ’90s (for the most part), I missed out on many of the original Planet of the Apes movies. And since most of them were, from what I have seen, cheesy movies with bad costuming, I don’t think that I have gone back and watched even the original Planet of the Apes from 1968. I think my basic understanding of the plot comes from one of two sources: the horrible 2001 Tim Burton reboot and the classic Simpsons episode “A Fish Called Selma,” where Troy McClure (RIP Phil Hartman) gets back in Hollywood’s good graces by marrying Selma and playing Charlton Heston character in the stage musical version of Apes. Some of the best songs ever in a Simpsons episode, even if you can’t really find them on the internet anywhere.

Nevertheless, I am fully invested in the series reboot. Rise of the Planet of the Apes was one of my favorite movies of 2011, and I saw a lot of movies that year. I don’t usually like James Franco, but he brought just the right amount to that film, but the true star was Andy Serkis as Caesar, the main ape of both films. The art of motion capture doesn’t really receive enough credit in today’s movie landscape, but maybe that perception will start to shift with the great “mo cap” performances in Dawn, though Serkis was nominated for, and won a few, minor film awards for his performance as Caesar in the first movie and other previous movies, including a couple of the Lord of the Ring films.

(Minor spoilers ahead) Continue reading