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TED 2009 Highlights: Day 1

A cultural dialogue on sex, Bill Gates releases more bugs into the world, and lots of caffeine.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first — live-blogging TED turned out to be much harder than we thought, especially fighting the 10-hour time difference and Red-Bulling our way to the dog hours of the morning. But it was tremendously exciting.

TED 2009You can check the speaker schedule for the line-up, but be sure to catch on our real-time updates, as there were a number of surprise appearances, including two of our greatest heroes: Al Gore, who gave us an even more chilling update on global warming, and Yves Behar, who unveiled his latest project — the fully electric Mission One motorcycle, a beautifully designed 150-mph wonder.

But perhaps the most noteworthy of the day’s wildcards was a short cameo by professional jaw-dropper Cindy Gallop, who unveiled her new site, MakeLoveNotPorn.com — a humorously framed yet enormously culturally ambitious project that takes the myths of pornography and balances them with the reality of sex.

Make Love Not Porn

Gallop talked about the failure of cultural institutions to address the issue of sex adequately, especially to teenagers.

So it’s not surprising that hard pornography has, in effect, become sexual education.

Make Love Not Porn

Make Love Not Porn

The site even invites visitors to submit their own porn myth busts, which Gallop hopes would create an open dialogue about the cultural meaning of sex. And this — the ability to create an open forum for a cultural taboo — is just one of the billion reasons we love TED.

Bill Gates Q&AAnother delight — despite our initial skepticism — was Bill Gates, who not only managed to release a box of very real mosquitoes into the audience while talking about malaria mortality, but also cracked a rather hilarious impromptu joke during the Q&A at the end: Chris asked him what he’d like written on his tombstone when he dies “in 10 or 15 years,” to which Gates responded with something to the effect of:

10 or 15? I certainly hope I live longer than that. So, in that case, it’ll say “Check my pulse!”

A geek god, an iconic philanthropist, and now a standup comic? Who new. Even we in the vicious Mac camp have to give it to the guy.

Finally, two simply titled yet truly promising Earth-centric documentaries were revealed. Home, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, explores life on Earth from a bird’s eye perspective, showcasing phenomenal aerial landscapes that are disappearing before our eyes.

Oceans, produced by the amazing Jake Eberts in collaboration with Jacques Perrin, was edited down from over 300 hours of footage from a worldwide deep-ocean expedition costing $75 million. From the phenomenal cinematography to the pure stride-stopping brilliance of the Blue Planet that it captures, Oceans is an absolute must-see.

Oceans

And while both films are a gloomy reminder that we’re going faster than the planet can sustain, they also do something much more valuable: Give us hope there is still time to avoid disaster.

We’ll be live-blogging today as well, so be sure to follow us on Twitter if you’re into, you know, hearing stuff before everyone else does.

BP

Design, Life, Digital: Best of DLD 2009

Predictability, simplicity, and why Munich is the epicenter of digital life and design.

This year’s DLD Conference just wrapped up in Munich last week, bestowing the wisdom of various Design, Life & Digital visionaries upon us mere mortals. And while some of the 20-plus talks were nauseatingly predictable (Mark Zuckerberg, we’re looking at you), we have a first-hand recommendation as to the most watch-worthy ones, thanks to a good friend who live-updated us straight from Munich.

First there’s the Telling Stories panel, dissecting the art of storytelling across a number of vehicles, from blogging to film to design. The panel featured New York Magazine icon Julia Allison, Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur, Argentinian architect-turned-filmmaker Fernando Sulichin, and industrial design’s youngest rockstar, Ora-Ïto.

Then there was the Fashion & Business discussion, featuring designer duo Marc Ecko and Xavier Court, and FOCUS Magazine correspondent Susann Remke.

But perhaps most fascinating was the discussion on Simplicity — an intense dissection of beauty and art through the prism of simplicity and understatement. The panel — comprised of social media expert Adam Bly, Mercedez-Bens Design division chief Gorden Wagener, Kodak CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett and iconic Italian architect Carlo Ratti — looked at the notion of simplicity from a variety of angles, from car design to content-sharing platforms to architecture, exposing some unsuspected universals that translate uniformly across a multitude of different disciplines.

See all the talks and panels on the DLD09 website and be your own judge.

Meanwhile, the live-streaming of TED 2009 begins in just a little while. Follow us on Twitter for exclusive real-time updates on the talks today through Saturday.

Thanks, Michal

BP

Show & Tell: A Century of Illustrated Letters

120 years of handwriting so bad it necessitates visual aid, or why hipsters didn’t invent irreverence.

Remember pen and paper? And how they came together to produce… gasp… letters? The Smithsonian certainly does – in fact, they remember and celebrate those most memorable of letters that go beyond mere words.

Enter the Smithsonian’s archive of Illustrated Letters — a wonderful collection of tortured love letters, violently opinionated reports of current events, gloriously rich thank-you notes, a handful of far-fetched excuses, and various other forms of visually written self-expression from the early 19th century to the late 1980’s.

Although the collection is a shots-in-the-dark nightmare to navigate, with some patience and a bit of luck you may just uncover some real gems.

David Carlson to Mrs. Jackson

And perhaps a few delightful oddballs.

Philip Guston to James Brooks

Then, of course, there’s the exercise of decoding the world’s most impossible handwriting. Which, actually, is why we half-seriously suspect a number of those folks resorted to illustrations.

<br /> Warren Chappell to Isabel Bishop

The Illustrated Letters collection is pulled entirely from The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, hand-picked by Curator of Manuscripts Liza Kirwin. It’s truly a cultural treasure, but perhaps it is most valuable as a reminder to us know-it-all millennials that we didn’t in fact invent visual creativity, or irreverent wit, or sarcasm, or dark humor, or any of those “quintessentially hipster” qualities that ooze from the letters and set we so boldly like to credit ourselves with.

Plus, it reminds us of Dan Price‘s wonderful Moonlight Chronicles.

via Coudal

BP

Monday Music Muse: Matt and Kim

How to drive your neighbors crazy, or why Columbia has nothing on the Pratt Institute.

Despite all cultural evidence to the contrary (Pitchfork best-of’s, we’re looking at you), punk/dance is far from dead. Not if Matt and Kim get any sort of say in the matter.

And say they do. The duo has been in the business of keeping the indie music scene danceable since 2004, when the two met randomly at the Pratt Institute and proceeded to play local warehouse shows in Brooklyn. By 2006, they were signed and cruising away with their ridiculously good self-titled debut album.

They are, if you will, Vampire Weekend long before there was Vampire Weekend, vaguely reminiscent of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, with a surprising touch of Clash here and there. Which is to say, rather hard to capture in comparisons. And it may just be us, but they also seem to have a weird thing about never being captured in photographs together.

Hey, we don’t judge.

Matt and Kim are Matt Johnson (vocals & keyboards) and Kim Schifino (drums & vocals). Their latest album, Grand, was released last week and is loaded with the stuff of wild, infectious, makes-you-jump-and-sing-along-till-the-neighbors-start-banging-on-the-floor-with-a-broomstick goodness.

Check it out.

Thanks, Jen

BP

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