Archive for April, 2007

Ira Glass

Ira Glass

If you don’t know who Ira Glass is, you need to go listen to the This American Life podcast right now. TAL is a public radio show with interesting stories about people, and it’s absolutely wonderful. For his 59mn show, the average listening time is 48mn — basically, most anyone who starts listening to it stays till the end. Each show gets around 1.7 million radio listeners, and an additional 250k podcast downloads.

Ira explained some of the philosophy behind the show, which is essentially to portray people “at a human scale” and show how interesting, quirky and fun life can be. He illustrated the value of good storytelling by telling us about Sheherazade and the Thousand and One Nights. There is no way this blog post can do justice to his performance, but suffice to say that the entire audience shivered at the end of the tale, and we were all very sad to see his talk interrupted as his time ran out. For me and most of the other attendees, this was the clear highlight of the conference.

[image by Blank Campbell]

Erin McKean

Erin McKean

Erin McKean, a lexicographer for the OED, ran a workshop on the first day about how to create new words. I attended this and learnt about how English shamelessly borrows words from other cultures, how new words are created through various Frankensteinian operations, and how new words are added to the OED. Erin is exactly the kind of person you’d like to be in charge of your language: not a literature scholar, but a true word geek, gladly embracing new words and repeatedly quoting the Simpsons (cromulent anyone?).

More importantly, I won third place in the word creation contest. “Mispronoonce” is a variation of mispronounce to be used after a particularly embarassing mispronunciation. It can only be used in the first person, as in “oh god, I mispronoonced that…”. You can read more about the contest on Erin’s blog, and here is a video of a talk she gave at Pop!Tech.

[picture by Neil Hunt]

Frog’s Leap Winery

Frog’s Leap Winery

John Williams is the founder of Frog’s Leap Winery, in Napa Valley. John told us the amazing tale of his winery, from his arrival in California with $40 in his pocket to his early embrace of organic winemaking. Among other things, he grows his grapes without chemicals and gets all his electricity from solar panels on his house.

John’s talk was full of great anecdotes (“all decisions made sober have to be revisited over a bottle of wine”), but was also an interesting account of how to build a unique business. Authenticity is an overused term, but John’s was the most genuine, honest talk I’ve seen in a while. I’ll most definitely be stopping by Frog’s Leap this summer and buying a case.

Songs To Wear Pants To

Songs To Wear Pants To

The highlight of the first session of GEL was Andrew, the composer/songwriter/artist behind www.songstowearpantsto.com. People send him goofy song requests, such as “a song about snails who eat people”, and he creates the ones that most inspire him. Andrew’s presentation was basically just a collection of his favorite songs, but his amazing musical range, wicked sense of humour and contagious enthusiasm totally won the crowd over. Besides, who can resist a song called “Reverse Escargot”.

GEL conference recap

GEL conference recap

This past week I had the chance to attend Mark Hurst’s GEL conference. GEL stands for Good Experience Live, and the idea is to invite a bunch of interesting people from varied fields to talk about what they think is a good experience. In practice, I’ve heard it described as a sort of mini-TED.

The conference spans two days, and is thorougly enjoyable. The first day is split up in various activities — I learnt how to make new words and took a typography tour of New York City (expect some pictures of letters). The second day consists of a series of short presentations and live experiences. I’ll be posting summaries of the most notable talks throughout the week. To start you off, here is a picture of the cleverly designed conference pass:

Gel conference pass

Notice how the schedule is printed upside down, so that it’s easy to read when the pass hanging from your neck. Now there’s a good experience!

Champagne chairs

You’ve got to love Design Within Reach’s annual Champagne Chair Contest. The assignment:

Create an innovative and original chair design using only the foil, label, cage and cork from no more than two champagne bottles.

Check out the runner-ups — chair #6 in particular is stunning.

A little advertising

A lot of people have linked to the UPS whiteboard ads, so I figured I’d post two recent commercials I find particularly imaginative: Nike Criket and Snickers Red vs. Green.

And then of course there’s this.

Cara Barer

I love Cara Barer’s photos of wet books.

Multiple tickets may be issued

Multiple tickets may be issued

This was taken on Polk street in San Francisco, with my Sigma 10-20, and it’s pretty much straight out of the camera. In other news, I should be issued a ticket for going under the legal posting speed.

Miracle Berries

Miracle Berries

PSFK points us to this WSJ article about Miracle Berries, which make everything sour taste sweet:

Within minutes of consuming the berries, guests were devouring lime wedges as if they were candy. Straight lemon juice went down like lemonade, and goat cheese tasted as if it was “covered in powdered sugar,” said one astonished partygoer.

Jacob Grier and David Barzelay post their personal accounts of the experience, and The Guardian highlights its use for diets in Japan. For a lot more information, check out this history of the miracle berry.

This is without doubt the most amazing thing I’ve heard in the last few months. I clearly have to organize a miracle berry party at some point. It also makes me wonder how many other fantastic plants we don’t know about yet…

PS: here’s a link to the WSJ version of the article, but it will expire in the coming days. Doh!