A.J. Jacobs cops to stoning adulterers: "I used pebbles"

A.J. Jacobs, who appeared last year at the IdeaFestival, followed up that appearance with this one for QTV, where he explains a bit about his life-as-experiment approach to writing.

Knowledge is a verb. That basic idea is indispensable, ironically, to one branch of philosophy - in robotics, where "embodied" intelligence offers context for decision making - to skilled craftspeople, whose experience lends them an intuitive understanding of the material at hand - and, of course, in many faith traditions. 

We know more than we can tell.


Jon Landau: "No one ever got fired for not trying something"

Participating on a panel at the Producers Guild of America, IdeaFestival 2010 presenter Jon Landau, co-producer of Titanic and Avatar, suggested that it's harder than ever, in an era of budgetary squeezes, to get studios back bold ideas.

The complaints echoed across other panels as well. 'Trying to get a big studio to embrace new ideas is not easy,' said 'Avatar' producer Jon Landau in a discussion about transmedia. 'No one ever got fired for not trying something.'

Sound familiar? Here's my suggestion:

Anyone preparing to pitch that bold new idea would do well to study Robert Frost, who said that "a poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness."

By that I think he meant that new ideas, truly new ideas, require a faith language, an appeal that references possibility rather than business spreadsheets or patterns we recognize from past experience, because the fact is no one knows in advance how such commitments will turn out. The numbers may or may not add up. And not trying something may seem like the safest option.

The breakthrough that can be neatly summarized in advance is no breakthrough.

When Landau comes to Louisville, I think I'll ask him if he's ever attended a meeting where a big idea hung in the balance and simply read "Mending Wall," from which two emotionally charged lines say

"Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down."


Philippe Petit's fear "made the journey possible"

"It was, in fact, the fear and terror that made the journey possible..."

In yesterday's web edition of Psychology Today, "Meaning in Life" blogger Michael Steger, pointed out that the absence of life's "junk" was no guarantee of happiness, and used Petit's act of creative defiance to reinforce the point. Positive psychology as an academic discipline and individual pursuit, depends on an accomodation with the past, and in Petit's case as he strode, reclined and hopped on slender rope, with an intense fear that drove him to prepare single-mindedly over the course of six years for the moment.

Fear? Yes. But the prize was the dearer for it.


Image source: NYT/Jean-Louis Blondeau/Polaris

Hugh Herr: Disadvantaged?

Having lost his legs in a climbing accident, Hugh Herr is currently head of the Biomechanics group at MIT, which is working to put advanced bio-mechanical technology into the service of people in need. Watch the video below.

Insider Passes to see all the presenters at the 2010 IdeaFestival are now on sale for a limited time.


Philippe Petit: A Life on the Edge

Not to be confused with another "tightrope" artist who will appear at IdeaFestival 2010, Philippe Petit's most famous exploit took place years ago when he and a team illegally smuggled carefully designed equipment into and to the top of the World Trade Towers in order to string a wire 1,000 feet over New York City pavement. Video, here, from "Man on a Wire" captures a moment that electrified a world.


I wonder what lessons he might have to share with IdeaFestival attendees about the "artistic crime of the century," about courage, about a life fearlessly led?

The lowest priced all-access pass that will be offered in 2010, the "Insider Pass," is now on sale. But only for a limited time!




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