The 15-minute solution to (just about) everything

Fame is so fleeting, so cold in its remembrance

Fame is so fleeting, so cold in its remembrance

There’s more time than you think in 15 minutes. Just ask Stephen Harper, who claims to have written a book about hockey in daily quarter-hour increments over the past ten years. I have no reason to doubt him.

In 15 minutes, I can get a lot done. I can walk a mile. I can mow the back lawn. I can weed the front garden. I can start and finish my Pilates routine. I can hard-boil an egg. If life were truly organized the way an advertising agency bills its clients – with a tyrannical focus on getting results in bite-sized chunks of the hour – I might even solve the crisis in the Middle East or work out that whole cold fusion thing.

But, I must admit, the idea of penning a manuscript on Canada’s great game – or, indeed, on anything – in this fashion has never entered my mind. How would that work, exactly?

The prime minister comes home after a hard day of insulting the Official Opposition, grabs a quick bite with the wife and kids, retires to the study, dons his favorite sweater-vest, flips on an old Guy Lomdardo recording, taps the stopwatch sitting to the right of his computer. Go! Fifteen minutes later, it’s time for bed.

Is it really all that implausible? The math suggests the approach is remarkably efficient. Multiply 15 by 365 (for the number of days in the year) and you get 5,475 minutes. Now divide that product by 60 (for the number of minutes in an hour) and you get 91.25. So, that works out to be equivalent to one extremely long work-week a year, or about three months of full-time effort over ten. Not too shabby, at all.

We can’t yet know the quality of the project’s result (it’s only available to the reading public in early November). Still, the economy of its execution is impressive.

On the other hand, why Mr. Harper chose 15 minutes – and not, say, 10 or 20 – as the duration of his daily input remains a mystery. It could have to do with the importance of this unit of time in the popular zeitgeist.

“In the future,” Andy Warhol once said, “everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” There’s even a Wikipedia entry titled, “15 minutes of fame”, in which the author, or authors, report, “Benjamin H.D. Buchloh suggests that the core tenet of Warhol’s aesthetic, being ‘the systematic invalidation of the hierarchies of representational functions and techniques’ of art, corresponds directly to the belief that the ‘hierarchy of subjects worthy to be represented will someday be abolished,’ hence anybody, and therefore ‘everybody,’ can be famous once that hierarchy dissipates, ‘in the future’.”

Again, though, why 15 minutes?

A Los Angeles-based media and public relations company that actually calls itself “Fifteen Minutes” explains on its website, “In today’s world, anything is possible in fifteen minutes. Identities are built. Futures are shaped. Legends are born.”

Really? That seems like a mighty tall order for such a fleeting sweep of the minute hand.

Less ambitious, perhaps, is Christine from the U.S. Midwest who runs something called “I’m a Pediatric Critical Care doctor,” she writes. “My husband is a professor at a huge university. . .I’m a mommy and a bit of a beauty addict. If left to my own devices, I could easily spend four hours getting ready each morning! Unfortunately, I am most definitely NOT a morning person, so I’m often running late. I need to squeeze a product heavy routine into. . .15 minutes!”

For its part, ABC Literacy Canada thinks a quarter-of-an-hour is just the right amount of time to wean junior off the gaming console. “Learning can happen at any time,” it declares on its website. Practicing literacy together for just 15 minutes a day has tremendous benefits for both children and parents.”

You can, among other things, “Create your own comic strip about your family. . .

Invent two new endings to your favourite book. . .Tell knock-knock jokes together while doing the dishes” and “find 15 things that begin with the letter ‘S’.”

Here’s one: “S” is for “Stephen Harper”, who wrote a book about hockey in daily quarter-hour increments over the past ten years, and who’s now enjoying his 15 minutes of fame for having done so.

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