One of the final chapters in Harry Emerson Fosdick’s autobiography The Living of These Days is titled “Ideas That Have Used Me.” This is the essential premise of TED.com and the global community it engages. In 1984, the first “Technology, Entertainment and Design” conference was held in Monterey, Calif. It attempted to show the convergence of information, media, and research as a primary agent of social change.
The event proved spectacular to its invited attendees, but it lost money and was not repeated until 1990. Its rebirth caused an explosion of fascination that catapulted the event to national attention, spawned a biennial international conference, and led to the 2007 creation of TED.com as a vehicle to share its marvelous conference speeches and performances.
The website is truly phenomenal, not so much because of its styling (actually quite spare and functional and very accessible) but because of its content. Forget YouTube; go to TED.com and be entranced by storytellers who live in the skin and voices of the famous and the fascinating, social analysts who explore the past and future of Africa and other places, graphic designers who create images of the cellular activities in the body for medical classes at Harvard, researchers who explain cutting edge technology, and historians who give mesmerizing reviews of culture and invention. All sorts of information and commentary that is found too rarely anywhere is offered here in a visually stunning manner.
A visit each day to TED.com places you in an audience before master teachers and entertainers who expand horizons, challenge intellect, warm hearts, and tickle emotions, all with the quality and presence of a good friend’s coffee visit.
Because the annual Monterey TED conference and its biennial sister TEDGlobal each have more than 50 speakers who must present in 18 minutes or less, TED.com is home to hundreds of wonderful, short talks that can be viewed in snippets that fit our hectic schedules and accommodate our tendency to easy distraction. But the vignettes at TED.com are addictive in a very good way, and those who give in to this Internet temptation will be much the better for it.
And Baby Makes Three
by John M. Gottman and Julie Shwartz Gottman
reviewed by Harriette Mostert
Two-thirds of couples studied by the Gottmans reported a significant decline in marital satisfaction three years after the birth of their first child. This book teaches the practical keys that enable the other 33 percent of couples to weather the stressful transition to parenthood. Topics include handling conflict, resolving gridlocked issues, building friendship and intimacy, and recognizing a father’s critical role. As the counsel does not have a biblical slant, discernment is needed. Yet overall, the authors show how to “bake the bread of legacy” by addressing the interdependent needs of mom, dad, and baby. (Random House)
by St. Vincent
reviewed by Elizabeth Gonzalez
Soft-spoken Annie Clark is St. Vincent, an artist with a voice reminiscent of swing surrounded by a myriad of instruments that candidly and playfully reveal the artist’s worries and dreams. Playground taunting in “Now, Now” defies the stereotyping that cages the beautiful vocals. The dark waltz “Paris Is Burning” broods over war, while the playful melodies and allusions of “Human Racing” end with the reassurance that “you’re not the first to break my heart.” Each song piques the palate, but the collection satisfies completely. (Beggars Banquet)
by Bill McKibben
reviewed by Phil Christman Jr.
In this passionate, smart, surprising book, Bill McKibben shows that our economic life isn’t just wrecking the planet—it’s making us less happy. The case he builds is both interesting and surprisingly well-supported by hard data, and the alternatives he proposes will fire your imagination. Unlike many ecological treatises, this one?inspires as much hope and pleasure as fear. (Times Books)
reviewed by Greg Sennema
An extension of Google’s photo organizing software, Picasa, picasaweb.google.com allows you to upload photos to the Web. Like other photo sharing services (e.g., Flickr) you just need an account, although you may want to install the Picasa program so it can manage your uploads. The gigabyte of free storage should provide enough space to share sports, party, church, or family pictures and videos.
Paint the Wind
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Eleven-year-old Maya’s mother said, “the only way to capture a ghost horse is to paint the tail of the wind.” Living with her domineering paternal grandmother and cut off from her mother’s family, orphaned Maya can only dream of riding horses. When Grandma dies, Maya leaves California to live with her mother’s family on an isolated Wyoming ranch where, through adversity, she discovers loving relationships and the powerful bond that can exist between a horse and a child. For ages 9-12. (Scholastic)
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light
by Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuk
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
Mother Teresa, who shone God’s light in Calcutta’s slums and throughout the world, suffered for decades from a “terrible darkness.” She hid her pain from people, except her spiritual directors. They eventually helped her to understand that “her darkness . . . was a sharing in Christ’s redemptive suffering.” The letters and reflections they received, revealing her ordeal, make up the body of this book. Though Reformed Christians might not entirely agree with Mother Teresa’s theology, they will see Christ’s power revealed in her. (Doubleday)
Last Minute Gift Ideas
OUT OF THIS WORLD: The BBC documentary series Planet Earth is available in a boxed set of DVDs offering incredible footage of different animals and habitats in all of their immense and dangerous beauty. (BBC Warner)
GLAD TIDINGS: In the picture book Angels Among Us, author Leena Lane presents children with 12 Bible stories in which angels play an important role. (Eerdmans)
NOT SO GOLDEN: The movie version of Philip Pullman’s book The Golden Compass is likely to be a hit with young audiences. While the movie avoids referencing religion, parents should use discretion with Pullman’s books. The first book seems innocuous enough, but the trilogy, often referred to as the “anti-Narnia,” features a heroic young girl battling a controlling, dangerous Church. One character who helps her is Mary, an ex-nun, who tells her “the Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.”