Brain Pickings

5 Must-See Talks from Google Zeitgeist

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What the resilience of books has to do with the media arts and recasting the political limelight.

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of meetings of the mind here at Brain Pickings. Not included in our two lists from last year of cross-disciplinary conferences, however, was Google’s Zeitgeist series. These invitation-only events gather global thought-leaders to describe the current moment — a kind of Weltanschauung according to Google — and now the online giant has created a deep library of talks from three years of its elite twice-annual get-togethers. Served by YouTube, natch, the Zeitgeist videos have been handily broken down into chapters so that viewers can drop in on specific sections.

Plenty of TEDsters are among the offerings, including Cameron Sinclair, Hans Rosling, and Rives; often the speakers share the stage in interview-style format and panel discussions. Since the conference is hosted by a NASDAQ behemoth, multinational CEOs and heads of state make up much of the list of 231 speakers to date. The result is a kind of behind-the-scenes view of the inner architectures of power — what author William Gibson termed the world’s “order flow” in his latest book.

Running from eight minutes to an hour in length, we’ve waded through the library to pick our five favorites. (In our number-one choice wait for the priceless story about Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin punking their current CEO Eric Schmidt.) We hope you enjoy these perspectives on how the zeitgeist looks from Mountain View.

ERIC SCHMIDT WITH LARRY PAGE

Perspective from Google 2009, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt in conversation with Google Co-Founder Larry Page:

So to give you all sense of how we work together. So Larry and Sergei called me into their office, they have one office together. And they said, we’re depressed And I said, like, why. They said, well, we’re bored. Well what do you want to do? They said, we want to get into the appliance business. And I said, oh, computer appliances, notebooks, that sort of stuff. And they said, no, no, no, no, refrigerators. And so we had this ten minute conversation about the economics and capital structure of managing refrigerators, which of course, as you know can be computer controlled and managed by Google for your benefit, before I realized that they were completely fooling me, and that we are NOT getting into the refrigerator business at the moment. Remember that? He won’t admit it. It’s true, trust me.”

THE GREGORY BROTHERS

Auto-Tune the News, The Gregory Brothers:

“We wanted to release shorter videos more frequently, and we wanted to shift the limelight from the already famous newscasters and politicians and sort of pick out everyday people who we thought had that amazing unintentional star singing quality that we’re sort of always on the hunt for.”

LEE CLOW & ALEX BOGUSKY

Advertising: Stories or Games, Lee Clow and Alex Bogusky:

I call what we do– I hate the word advertising, but unfortunately it is the name of my business. But I like to believe that we’re in the media arts business. We try and take every media that a brand uses, and try and make it artful, smart, and lovable.”

SEBASTIAN JUNGER

Human Connection, Sebastian Junger:

There are social and political factors that cause wars that can simmer for decades and be ignited literally in an afternoon. One of my jobs — one of the things I do in my job is to explain how that catalyst worked or try to predict when it’s going to happen again. It happens all the time.”

CRYSTIA FREELAND & SALMAN RUSHDIE

Literary Thought in the Information Age, Crystia Freeland and Salman Rushdie:

I don’t know, I think you know the death of the book has been forecast almost since the birth of the book. And it’s an oddly resilient technology.”

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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Bruce Lee: The Lost Interview

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A priceless gem from the fine folks at The Internet Archive: Bruce Lee’s only existing television interview, from 1971.

Style is a crystallization, a process of continuing growth.” ~ Bruce Lee

You can download the clip in multiple formats right here.

via Coudal

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Jacqueline Novogratz on the Life of Immersion

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Patient capital pioneer and Acumen Fund founder Jacqueline Novogratz is one of our biggest heroes, an inspired social justice and anti-poverty crusader marrying rigorous investing with pure human kindness in a way that, literally, changes lives. Her book, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World, is one of the most important books published in the past decade and should be on every academic curriculum and every self-respecting global citizen’s nightstand.

In this excellent new TED talk on “the life of immersion,” Novogratz talks about the practical components of the greatest human aspiration: Living a life of purpose. From understanding the tender vulnerabilities we all cary, which demagogues exploit to create monsters, to finding inspiration in the powerful stories of human spirit and kindness, her talk is as much a window into the complex duality of human nature as it is a rousing call for moral leadership. It’s the most important thing you’ll watch this week — so do.

What we really yearn for as human beings is to be visible to each other.” ~ Jacqueline Novogratz

Your job is not to be perfect. Your job is only to be human.” ~ Jacqueline Novogratz

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Missing Sarajevo: A Political U2 Rockumentary

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What beauty pageants have to do with war tragedy and the power of rock.

Between 1992 and 1996, The Siege of Sarajevo claimed tens of thousands of lives and its place in textbooks as the longest siege of a world capital in the history of modern warfare, as the rest of the world stood idly by. In the summer of 1993, American aid worker Bill Carter smuggled himself out of Sarajevo and into U2’s backstage in Verona, telling the band about the situation there. Bono immediately sprang to action, wanting to play a concert in Sarajevo, but was told not to go because the situation had gotten too dangerous. So, instead, he decided to do something that had never been done before — send a satellite dish instead and play a satellite show, long before the age of telecommuting and digi-presence.

But the satellite show wasn’t enough for Bono and he resolved to eventually play a real concert. In 1997, he kept his promise, making U2 the first major artist to play a concert in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina — an extraordinary event that brought together people of different ethnicities who had fiercely clashed during the war. Missing Sarajevo is the story of this epic concert’s making, a fascinating microdocumentary about the political power of rock.

From the formidable setlist, including the song “Miss Sarajevo,” which Bono and Brian Eno wrote about a beauty pageant held at the peak of the war, to this profound human moment on stage, the concert was a poetic exercise in human connectedness in the midst of social and political turmoil. The documentary is available on YouTube in two parts, gathered below for your edutainment:

In many ways, that U2 concert played the same role Twitter did in this month’s Egyptian revolution — giving a voice to the repressed and oppressed to break the silence of the world. And regardless of which way the debates on whether or not that constitutes “real” activism, one thing is clear: Voice is always better than voicelessness.

via MetaFilter

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