: views from the Hill

Friday, January 16, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell on spaghetti sauce | Video on TED.com

Malcolm Gladwell on spaghetti sauce

The videos at ted.com are pretty cool.

We saw Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point, Blink, and -- most recently -- Outliers and also staff writer for The New Yorker) last night at the City Arts & Lectures series at Herbst Theatre ("in conversation" with Kevin Berger, Salon) with tickets my brother gave his nibs for Christmas.

What a funny, bright guy Gladwell is. Sharp. Verbal. Quick.

I really don't care if you think he dumbs down science or puts his own spin on things. I think he'd be a great guy to hang out with at a coffee shop and discuss the world and what he was working on.

I'll be looking for his writing in The New Yorker even more than I was before.

Bits from last night.

KB: You start Outliers talking about hockey players (and why successful professional hockey players are usually born in January, February, and March). Why?

MG: Well, because I'm Canadian.

Jeb Bush quote about the struggles he had to reach where he is today, which MG characterized as an "heroic struggle against advantage."

MG talked about the Beatles and how they became the best band evah. He mentioned that most people don't consider the fact that for years before they came to America and were discovered, they'd been the house band at a Hamburg strip club where they played eight hours a day for six days a week. Live. On stage. They were playing live (and getting better and better) for thousands of hours before they "made it."

"We have chosen to overlook the extraordinary discipline they devoted to their vocation."

We say, oh, they're talented. Or oh, they're lucky. They were neither. They played over a thousand live gigs before they "made it."

The talk was very interesting. Interesting enough that I'm Googling (Hi, Sergey! Hi, Larry!) as I speak. How many other videos are there out there of Gladwell doing his schtick.

He closed with a discussion of his mother, a brown Jamaican (as he called her), mixed race, and the advantages she had, and her parents, and her parents parents going back that made her what she is today.

His point is that just because you live here and are successful and don't worry where your next meal is coming from or where the fresh water is or the fuel you need to cook ... this all isn't due to the fact you worked so hard and sacrificed and were lucky but is more due to the fact that you were born into circumstances that put you where you are today.

Don't forget that.

Don't forget that those in less fortunate circumstances weren't born to your parents.

Or, as Phil Ochs would say

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