Though I was a bit distracted by the Hackathon, I still managed to listen to and watch several talks from TED while out in Palm Springs.  Here are a couple of brief notes and opinions, and links to the talks themselves from when available.

Reuben Margolin: This was almost painful to watch, as Margolin literally looked like he was going to die of stage fright at any time.  He might have just been going for artistic effect, but all it did was make me want to leap on stage and try to save him.  That said, the sculptures themselves were beautiful and lovely and kinetic.  They reminded of the complex wood sculptures I used to see on the Oregon Coast as a kid; I don’t really want to buy them as much as I want to figure out how to build them.  A handy shortcut for getting engineering/science kids into art.

Andrew Stanton: So now I’m actually interested in seeing John Carter, which I didn’t know was coming from the Pixar folks.  It is a fact that it is difficult to make me cry but that movies seem to consistently do it – I tear up at Monsoon Wedding (specifically when the father makes the difficult choice to protect his family), as regular as clockwork.  And Pixar movies tend to do it more than most.  When I flew my father out to NYC for his birthday a few years back, we want to see Up together in the theater, which may seem like a strange thing to do after going cross country, but is actually perfectly in keeping with my relationship with my father.  And of course we both cried at the beginning.

Stanton’s talk wandered a bit, but like many things Pixar does, I was sort of OK with its non-traditional nature.  The crux of his talk seemed to be about different modes of storytelling, and what makes different styles tick.  It wasn’t especially academic or engaging, and I ended up paying more attention to the story of the talk itself.  The Pixar guys seem to me to be incredibly courageous – they made animation relevant to more than kids, when lots of people had written off the genre, and they did it over the stiff opposition of plenty of studio execs that weren’t believers.

So what gave Stanton the courage to do it?  He tracks it back to his parents, who were willing to tell him that he was special, as much for his weaknesses as his strengths, and to back his plays.  Which ultimately is the best gift an adult can give a kid: you may be wrong, you may be weak, but I’ll come along on the journey towards strength with you.  My parents were steadfast in that, as were many of my teachers, and I should probably go give them a call and tell them so.

Which is pretty much my takeaway from the talk: call all the people who supported you and tell them how awesome they are.