Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TED10 Fri PM: Music and Comedy

<= Friday Morning Saturday Morning =>

Friday afternoon and evening were Font sizepacked with official TED talks, TED member talks (3 minutes on stage), and entertainment. I'll cover the major stuff here but there were too many short format talks to cover them all.

Raghava KK

Score: 10 balloons

This was the best full TED talk of the day-- a Slumdog Millionaire tale of an Indian cartoonist's coming of age. The delivery was masterful and funny. Watch it now...

Denis Duton
Score: 3 balloons

Duton is a philosophy professor from New Zealand. The intriguing thesis of his book The Art Instinct is that appreciation for beauty is an evolutionary adaptation -- that we naturally find beauty in things and scenes that support our survival or reproduction. For example, he claims that people naturally prefer landscapes where the trees have low lying branches -- the better for escaping predators. Unfortunately his delivery was not up to TED standards.

Marion Bantjes

Score: 1 balloon

A totally self-absorbed artist shares her doodles. Okay so lots of folks liked her and I'm just a Philistine. Still, ick.

Temple Grandin
Score: 7 balloons

An autistic woman, whose autobiography is the subject of an upcoming film, presented her position on education. Temple has turned her intuitive understanding of animal cognition into a successful career improving slaughterhouses, and now she's preaching the importance of reforming education to accommodate learning differences. Amen!

Specifically for kids on the autistic spectrum, schools should integrate mentorships, hands-on activities, and on-the-job internships, so that Asperger's kids can "one day make their way to Silicon Valley."

David Rockwell
Score: 4 balloons

Architect designs innovative playground for kids. Crowd goes wild with sentiment.

David Byrne, Thomas Dolby and Ethel Quartet

Some great music to ease us in after the break.

Natalie Merchant
Score: 9 balloons

Even after David Byrne, Robert Gupta and Sheryl Crowe, the best musical show of the week was Nathalie Merchant's performance of the classic poems she has put to music in her upcoming album Leave Your Sleep. Here's a nice one...

"The Janitor’s Boy," Nathalia Crane (1913-1998)

Oh I'm in love with the janitor's boy,
And the janitor's boy loves me;
He's going to hunt for a desert isle
In our geography.
A desert isle with spicy trees
Somewhere near Sheepshead Bay;
A right nice place, just fit for two
Where we can live alway.
Oh I'm in love with the janitor's boy,
He's busy as he can be;
And down in the cellar he's making a raft
Out of an old settee.
He'll carry me off, I know that he will,
For his hair is exceedingly red;
And the only thing that occurs to me
Is to dutifully shiver in bed.
The day that we sail, I shall leave this brief note,
For my parents I hate to annoy:
"I have flown away to an isle in the bay
With the janitor's red-haired boy."

Julia Sweeney
Score: 10 balloons

Julia Sweeney, aka "Pat" from SNL, is my heroine for writing and performing her theatrical production Letting Go of God (which you can see on Showtime next week). In an impromptu 3-minute talk, Julia hopped on stage and recounted the birds-and-bees conversation she just had with her daughter. It was hysterical -- if this makes it into a TED video, watch it. Meanwhile you can check out her debut TED Talk from 2006:

Eve Ensler
Score: 9 balloons

The woman behind The Vagina Monologues presented an outstanding reading from her new book I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Lives of Girls Around the World. We heard the tales of two young women -- one in an Asian sweat shop and one who was kidnapped by soldiers in Africa. Again, if this makes it onto video, watch it.

Sarah Silverman
Score: 4 balloons

Silverman performed a stand-up shtick with shock comedy that became the subject of much controversy when Chris Anderson himself tweeted how god-awful she was. Later he deleted the tweet and apologized for sending it, but also apologized to TED for bringing Sarah in the first place.

Silverman's supportive bloggers insist that she was simply shaking up the establishment, sticking it to The Man by using the word retarded. Now I'm all for shock comedy, and so I laughed hard at her jokes about poop, hot sex and Jews -- for the most part she met my high expectations. But when she mocked dying, retarded kids, she lost me and most of the room. Less polite audiences would have booed off her the stage, but TED still applauded. Now I'll never criticize a comic for making folks uncomfortable or offending sensibilities, but Silverman hurt a lot of parents in there, and (maybe even worse) the joke just wasn't funny.

The controversy has fanned many anti-TED flames in the blogosphere, some of which I'm bound to attract because I admit I didn't laugh at one of Sarah's jokes. Apparently the detractors find TED to be elitist and self-important; we at TED don't produce fresh enough ideas, we take ourselves too seriously, and we're too crusty to get Silverman's sophisticated form of parody. The odd thing is that I only hear this from people who didn't attend TED. Really, who has time for this?

The Party

As usual TED hosted a Grand Party on that last night, which was okay (chilly, crowded and short on food). But the REAL party erupted, unplanned, in the lobby of the Westin, where Jake the Uke player held court among those of us who speculated that there just might be a repeat of last year's Westin lobby sing-a-long. As the hours passed, TED performers of all kinds must have read their tweets and made their way over, joining the impromptu jam session. Robert Gupta of the LA Philharmonic, the Ethel quartet, Louis the flamenco guitarist, Natalie Merchant, soundtrack composer Carter Burwell on the piano, and others joined the fray, riffing off each other's music and whipping up the crowd. At the pinnacle of the party, Harry Shum of LXD (and the cast of Glee) turned the lobby into a dance spectacle (check out the video below). This performance won't make it into a TED Talk video, but if you want to see it, I'm betting that Friday Night at the Westin has now become a TED institution.

1 comment:

  1. That's brilliant, Raghava KK's talk was profoundly heart felt and honest. Such a brilliant forum for his extraordinary personal story.