Bizarro Blog: Master Your Environment

Another post for the film & graphic design blog I don’t have. Been seeing lots of daddy blogging lately, though, so I’m inclined to indulge.

And, especially, because: wow. Such a piece, this one.

You see a lot of montage like this in action movies, lots of quick cuts, heavy on the close-ups, a particular undercranking of the camera that slows down the film and then speeds it up, all aiming to intensify the scene but usually just confusing the viewer.

But this right here, what first seems like more of the same spastic cinema, is like rejecting a sledgehammer for a chisel.

The visuals punctuate the narration in such a slick way. At :20 notice how the quick close-up functions as a period for the line before it, “… I’ve pushed myself to do what normal people would consider impossible.” I get a sense of security from the piece, a conscious feeling that the experience was engineered from start to finish for my understanding.

(Aside: that engineering is also what I dig about teaching.)

Frankly, I could turn the picture off and just listen to the narration, which is a sublime ode to human achievement, really a syringe-full of inspiration for you boundary-pushing teacher-types.

I should just make with the disappointment right now, though: it’s an Xbox ad and kind of a lousy one, only an effective marketing piece in the same way that scribbling the Xbox name below a Picasso would be. Do yourself a favor: close it up at 1:12, get back here, and get me some reasonable explanation for that confounding first shot.

Here’s the transcript, just for fun:

“Can you do it,” they asked.

“Well anyone can do it,” I said. I don’t think they believed me though.

You see, for as long as I can remember, I’ve pushed myself to do what normal people would consider impossible.

You’re always on the edge. Dancing the blade of perfection. There really is no room for error. To lose control, it’s game over. You’ve got to think beyond the walls, beyond boundaries, push your mind to accept that there are none.

It’s only impossible because you’ve been told it is.

You need to be a master of your environment, not a servant to it. When I realized this, everything changed. What was down became up, long became short, liquid became solid. These days nothing’s what it seems.

That’s when I did my first slip. Yeah I was looking at where my hand should’ve been … and it wasn’t.

Like I said, I’m not special. Anyone can do this.

[last line redacted ’cause it’s totally stupid]

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. Parkour is where it’s at. I have started very slow, doing falls/jumps for 6-8 ft. I can do some wall runs, but none of the flips yet. Eventually, I’ll get it though, assuming I don’t break my neck first.

  2. Hey, you’re never too old to try something new. Plus, if the time ever comes when I need to be a vigilante crime fighter, I want to be prepared. This math teacher thing should serve as a great alter ego day job. Plus, if watching the right TV shows or downloading the right tunes to your iPod gives you street cred with your students, being able to leap across rooftops ought to really get their attention.

  3. Dan — GREAT video link — thanks!
    Tony — So, you’re actually ‘doing’ Parkour? Amazing. Truly. Like that you stressed that you’re building up your skills and moves. Just keep your neck in one piece.


    Yes, yes, yes, Parkour — thanks for reminding me of the spelling, Tony — is a wild, wild, wild ride into the new ranges of human movement. Makes X-games movements seem trivial at best. The guy in the film is the most well-known Parkour ‘competitor’ (or ninja, depending on your mindset, I suppose) — based in France — check out a fascinating recent article in the New Yorker that covers him and his colleagues. I had posted a video to my blog a few weeks ago that mashed-up Pink Floyd (“We don’t need no education,…”) within a help the environment message. I think you saw it, Dan. It included the same Parkour movements.

    On the side, I’ve been thinking about a blog post that uses Parkour as a metaphor for how our kids learn instinctively in this day and age (via technology) while also reminding all of us that such moves only happen through rigorous practice, building up moves little by little, pushing the extreme. See it as a learning metaphor on all fronts.

    Thanks for posting the video, Dan. And the post itself. Cheers, Christian

  4. Christian, actually the guy in the film is not the person you are referring to (I assume that you are referring to David Belle, who is the founder of Parkour and is based in Lisses, France). This guy’s name is Chase Armitage, and he is from England. You can check out his website at