Thursday, March 19, 2015

On the road again: TEDActive, Whistler, day 4

Wow, was today busy.  We saw a large number of talks, so I'm going to keep my descriptions to a minimum. 

We kicked off at 8:15 a.m. with TEDYou, a set of nine talks from TEDActive attendees on our stage here in Whistler. 

CNN columnist and commentator Sally Kohn started with a pitch to "Choose Gay."  I expect this one to generate some controversy on both sides of the political fence.

Real estate magnate Barbara Corcoran, who also is involved with the Shark Tank TV show (something I've never seen), discussed what she believes to be the most important traits of entrepreneurs.

Jamila Lyiscott turned in a spoken-word performance on how we often incorrectly assess the intelligence of those outside the mainstream.

Shivam Shah, a classical pianist, showed us some ways better performances differ from more mundane ones.

In a touchingly brave talk, Jacqui Chew discussed misperceptions of manic-depressive disorder, a condition from which she suffers.

Onyx Ashanti played very odd music using creations of his own invention, all of which were attached to his body.

In a funny and informative talk, Jun Kamei showed that traditional designs may still have much to teach us.

Marco Tempest performed charming and puzzling illusions with a large collection of Rubik's cubes.

Wrapping up this first session, journalist and storyteller Joshua Prager showed us parts of a project he's been working on for some time:  a collection of literary quotes that mention specific years of human life, one quote for each year from 1 to 100.  I'd love to see the whole collection.

Dave Isay of StoryCorps then took the stage and fielded questions about ways those of us at TEDActive might help with his TEDPrize wish.

After a break, the best session of the day, Just and Unjust, began with a touching presentation from Monica Lewinsky about slut-shaming--which she suffered before the term existed.

In one of the day's most powerful talks, Gary Haugen, a man who's written extensively about the link between violence and poverty among the world's poorest people, discussed that topic and proved, at least to me, that if we don't help people live without violence, we'll have precious little luck addressing their poverty and hunger.  Watch this one as soon as it goes live.

Monologist Sarah Jones, whom I've had the pleasure of seeing on the TED stage before, premiered for us bits of Sell/Buy/Date, a work in progress.  She is amazing to watch, a one-woman cast of many distinct characters.

Alice Goffman discussed the enormous problem of young people who end up in jail rather than college, a problem that plagues many inner cities.

Spoken-word artist Clint Smith talked about what it meant to be fully human and how being born a person of color cost him so much of his childhood.  I would love to see more of his work, for this was a powerful, moving short talk.

Sri Lankan opera singer Tharanga Goonetilleke sang a beautiful aria from the Messiah.  Though I didn't understand the words and opera is most definitely not my thing, I still found her performance lovely.

Reverend Jeffrey Brown closed the session with a discussion of his role in the "Boston Miracle" that helped dramatically lower the rate of youth-related violent crime in Boston. 

After lunch, we started the tenth session of the conference, Building from Scratch.  Astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell gave a very science-fictional talk on the knowledge we would need to preserve to rebuild after an apocalyptic event. 

In a fun but light presentation, Roman Mars, who runs the podcast and radio show 99% Invisible, discussed the designs--good and bad--of various flags.

Erin McKean gave a short talk on interesting words that had popped up in various earlier talks.

Stephen Pyne presented a history of fire, a story that was not as intriguing as I think it could have been.

In another short talk, Shiva Shivakumar showed some of the varieties of very useful data we can get by instrumenting the vehicles in a city and tracking their movements. 

Neri Oxman explained her concept of "material ecology" and demonstrated constructions that mixed growth with machine construction.  One very cool example involved using chitin as a key building block.

In one of the odder art presentations, Dustin Yellin wrapped up this session by showing off both some of his work and the institute he has created, Pioneer Works in Brooklyn.  I would very much like to see more of his art live, if only because I could not decide after his talk whether I would love it or find it not to my taste; I consider both to be possible. 

The last session of the day, Passion and Consequence, kicked off with amazing photos from surf photographer Chris Burkard, a man who photographs surfers in some of the world's coldest waters.

Hussein Chalayan discussed both his fashions and his art installations.  It was an odd presentation, but one with a great many intriguing bits of art--fashion and otherwise.

Noy Thrupkaew turned in a powerful presentation on human trafficking and the many forms in which it occurs.  Hint:  prostitution, the part that draws the most headlines, is only 22% of the problem. 

Teitur Lassen, a singer from the Faro islands, sang three songs and talked a bit about the importance of sharing in all things artists do.

Relationship therapist Esther Perel wrapped up today's talks with a discussion of infidelity, a topic that apparently garnered her considerable skepticism but that I thought she covered fairly and intelligently.

The day ended with a party at the ski resort at the top of the mountain.  We ate, socialized, and then were treated to performances by Maya Jupiter and then Aloe Blacc; Blacc will be performing at TED tomorrow.  I did not recognize either artist but later learned that they were married and that Blacc had written and provided the vocals for a song I quite like, "Wake Me Up."

I left a bit on the early side, one song before the end of his set, as it turned out, and ended up riding alone in a gondola down the mountain.  I pondered whether this ride was a tangible demonstration of my own social failings, which to some degree it most certainly was, but ultimately I found I was quite content to be alone, riding in silence and enjoying the lovely views of the slopes.

Tomorrow morning, we have the last session of the conference, enjoy a lunch and farewell toast, and then head away.

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