The 10,000 Hour Rule, Video Games, Entertainment, and Opportunity

Yes, this article is going to cover a lot of ground and probably not very thoroughly.

The 10,000 hour rule is a concept that Malcom Gladwell came up with to explain the amount of time necessary to attain mastery of a sport, subject, or art. 10,000 hours of practice would, in theory, allow anyone to reach a near professional level. This translates to a little over 3 years  practicing 8 hours per day.

This seems like a lot now, now consider this – the average American adult spends 5 and a half hours watching video content per day. That is, the average adult lets 1/5 of their day, and a large percentage of their waking day, goes to complete waste. With three years of watching the Simpsons, Seinfeld, or playing League of Legends you could have mastered an ancient language, become a painter, or, if you split up your time, you could have become proficient in several languages or other skills.

Maybe you are starting to see what I’m getting at – entertainment is taking up more and more of or time but it is getting simpler and simpler (and, admittedly, more realistic looking in some cases). Look at Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Pokemon Go, really any Nintendo game, the majority of modern blockbusters (I mean we remake the same super hero movies over and over and over).

We no longer read, go to the theater, or do any number of things that might have passed as entertainment and but were also intellectually stimulating. This kind of degeneration can even be seen in music. In point of fact, it is probably most obvious in music. Much of modern art and literature fits the bill as well – I mean Young Adult literature as a genre is a joke.

All this time wasted on episodes forgotten and video games quit after 40 hours of play (and let’s not forget the 60 dollars to be spent on the next 40 hours), it’s all absurd. Think of all the opportunities lost, the things that could have been learned, how much more intelligent each of us could be in three years time if only we didn’t sit around as endless consumers of media. Media for which we are paying!


You pay first with money, then with time. And what do you have to show for it? In this age of pornography and video games one can sit around and feel as through he is some kind of sex king and next an undefeatable magician? These are things that people are extremely unlikely achieve in the real world. So why even try?

But they could achieve incredible skill that, while perhaps not so impressive as conjuring fire, are still extremely awe inspiring. Perhaps the worst part is that these people spend their lost time doing these thing in their youth! At least go outside, good Lord. What will they have to show when they are 30, work 9 hours per day, and have a kid? They will have far less time to study, learn, and practice… but even then I’d hazard most will spend that time in a similar manner. Less hours but a greater percentage of free time donated to this onanism.

As VR becomes more mainstream, even greater numbers of people are going to drop out of society to live out their fantasies. It lines up well with our current culture – personal happiness is the ultimate good, why not take the easy route there?

If the 10,000 hour rule is to be believed – one could become a near master artist in several mediums, a writer, and a polyglot over the course of a lifetime. A true renaissance man.

Everyone has the potential and the opportunity – information is more widespread, accessible, and user-friendly than ever. It’s just a matter of will.




Music Notes: Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave

Music Notes is an idea I’ve had for a while where I will take a relatively famous classical music piece and quickly run through the history of it. These articles should be short and to the point so, I hope, you will be able to get through them quickly. And, perhaps, discover something new!

One of the first ones that I have been meaning to do is Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave.

The Marche Slave (B-flat minor, op. 31) is a symphonic poem written in 1876. A symphonic poem is a short, one movement orchestral piece that is written to evoke the feeling of, well, a poem. Just using music instead of words. A common accessory to Tchikovsky’s 1812 Overture, Marche Slave is something many people could recognize but few could name upon hearing.

The piece was written just at the beginning of the Serbo-Turkish War. The Russians, as was their habit, supported the Serbians in their cause (due to shared ethnic background an religion). The Russian populace was so supportive of the Serbian cause that many Russians ran to go join the war to aid the Serbs. As an aside, this phenomenon is mentioned in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina when several characters go off to join the war.

The concert was actually commissioned for the war itself (well, the Red Cross Society), it was not written out of a fit of patriotic glee; glee such as that which drew Russia’s young men into a foreign war.

The piece itself draws heavily from Serbian folk songs and the Russian national anthem of the time (God Save the Tsar). Giving it strong patriotic and nationalist tones that would have been instantly recognizable to Russians and Serbians of the time.

The piece opened in Moscow in 1876 and was conducted by Nikolai Rubinstein.


Musings on the Decline of Classical Learning

An unfortunate trend that I have noticed in the United States, the West in general really, is the precipitous decline of both classical learning and the respect it engenders. If one was to explain to their parents that they were going off to school to study Latin and Greek, their parents would almost certainly be dismayed. Yes, they might console themselves that their child could be preparing to become a lawyer, but that’s nearly their only solace. Few would rejoice in the idea that they would be perpetuating a three thousand year tradition. The same can be said for Art History, Music, and the like. In the English speaking world there has even been a great drop in the so-called ‘practical languages,’ when all of Europe speaks passable English (or at least the parts one might want to actually visit), why bother?

One could argue, quite reasonably, that the literature of France, Italy, and Germany ought to be more than enough reason. Translations only suffice at the barest level. Reading prose in translation is like watching a movie through a distorted window pane, poetry in translation in more similar to watching a silent movie through wax paper. It’s hopeless. However this matters less and less to the hoi polloi, and I use that term in its most benign sense, they’d just rather be watching television or football. The percentage of people in both the US and the UK that manage to read one measly book per year is obscene. Imagine how low the number would be in regard to reading a book in a foreign language?

It is little wonder that the respect that a classical education engenders has fallen into such destitution. One can hardly engage the public in reading their own language, much less thinking about those ghastly ‘dead’ languages. The decline in attendance and interest at major cultural venues such as theatre, opera, and music has been, while not equally precipitous, quite sharp. Musical forms that have managed to hold the public’s attention since the 16th century are in sharp decline. Thankfully, the decline in the aural arts has not been nearly so bad in Europe as it has been in the United States.

So what is the cause of this? Perhaps the greatest contributor to this decline was the abhorrent attitude of the 1960s. That unfortunate decade where the Western World, in the throws of recovery from it’s folly 20 and 30 years earlier, faced a new threat: its children. This was a rare time wherein a younger generation held a great deal of power in comparison to its elders. This advantage was primarily one of numbers. It was the teenage years of the Baby Boom after all, it was never going to be pretty. This was an era where students took over campuses and made demands of their teachers insofar as what they ought to be taught. What folly! A generation that has the freedom to run around chanting ‘Hi Hi Ho Ho Western Civ Has Got to Go!’ has no idea whence this freedom came.

Here was a time when the establishment was hated, a time when the patients ran the clinic – anti-intellectualism abounded. Tenured radicals, as they have been called, became the norm and universities took their modern form as being monolithically liberal. This was a time when University became a place of ‘self-discovery’ and not formation. The classical education was actively detested at this time for being too western, nowadays it is looked down upon because the great composers, authors, painters, and poets are all ‘old, dead, white men.’

It is my hope that in time tradition can take hold again, for it is such a sinewy thing. A few generations of ignorance will hardly destroys thousands of years of learning.