So here's some random snippets. Hate me if you must.
Jeff Bezos is everywhere at TED. Well, he seems everywhere. He's an incredibly friendly guy with a very loud, very infectious laugh. I can hear him right now across the restaurant at breakfast. Actually, his laugh isn't loud compared to mine, but I'm not famous, and I guess being famous and means you shouldn't have a loud laugh.
People talk about his laugh and it has this connotation that he's kind of a buffoon, which couldn't be farther from reality. He's really just a genuinely nice guy, and he finds a lot of mirth in the world. He's tickled to meet you, no matter who you are. I've never said "hi" to him and not had him ask me about my day and whether I got enough sleep.
Jeff's freakin' smart, but it's the good kind of smart. Like, if he DID take over the world, well, that wouldn't be so bad. Honestly, if he split it with Larry Page and Sergey, I think we'd be on to something.
My point here isn't, "I met Jeff Bezos and you didn't, nah nah." My point is, I got to meet one of my heroes, and it turns out he's a good guy. He's a, well, normal guy. It's an incredible relief.
Al Gore is a TED this year, he gave a talk yesterday on global warming. I admit that even I have fallen prey, somewhat, to The Right's relentless campaign to discredit the "theory" of global warming. In that I do *not* wake up every day afraid for my life, and, well, we're at that point now. It's time to be afraid.
We're all going to die, really soon, unless we make big changes, really soon. It's as simple as that. It's not a hundred years off, it's fifteen years off. We will be dead. Al has so much scientific data that supports this from so many different sources that, at the end of his talk, you sit there feeling like you've been lied to by our leaders.
Which you have. They don't lead any more, they hide.
Al was incredibly funny in his talk. At the start he made a joke about the 2000 election and the crowd laughed, and he looked as us completely deadpan and said, "Uh, I don't think that's funny." We literally DIED. No, I'm not mis-using literally here; we're dead now, and I'm writing from heaven. Have fun burning to death on earth in 15 years, suckers.
The right wing has done such a good job of making up and propagating lies about him that it's amazing when you actually meet him to see that he's an incredibly engaging, super-intelligent man who is really passionate about trying to save the world from a cataclysm. It is a bitter, bitter irony that a man who can barely read stole painted an engaging scholar like Al Gore as "stiff." For me, "stiff" is someone who can't read "My Wiggly Puppy" without stuttering on the long words.
After the talk I stood in the crowd around Al to just simply touch the man. Honestly, I don't think we wanted to talk to him, we just wanted to use him as a touchstone, and say, "Yes, you're real, and we are connected to you. We're your army."
As people touched him and left he eventually turned towards me and shook my hand in his well-practiced politician's way. I looked him in the eye and said, "Mr. President."
He did the most amazing double-take and his actor's face cracked, and he looked genuinely touched. He stuttered for a second and said, "Th.. thank you!"
I told him I'd cried during his speech, which I had. Not because I was touched, but because I was genuinely scared, and angry, and discouraged at the folly of the world. We all imagine ourselves invincible, right up until the day we day. We can't imagine a world that ends, because it hasn't happened to us before. But that does not mean it could not, and in fact it has before. Jesus, the dinosaurs roamed the earth for WAY LONGER than we have; they must have felt pretty damn cocky. "60 MILLION YEARS, BABY! NOTHING CAN STOP US... oof!"
He looked at my badge, and suddenly recognition lit his face. "Oh, Delicious Monster! I love your web site!"
I basically was like, "Uh, duhh, uh... duhhh... wuh?" I felt like Elaine on Seinfeld and wanted just give him a huge shove and shout, "Get OUT!" but I figured I'd get shot.
I walked downstairs and Peter Gabriel was standing in the entry-way, with two producers talking to him about something. I stood behind them and smiled. Sometimes you're a colleague at TED and sometimes you're just a fan, and I'm just a fan here.
The producers left and I'm alone in a room with Peter Gabriel. I said to him, "Mr. Gabriel, sorry to bother you, but I have wanted to meet you all my life. When I was 15 my mother had cancer and I listened to your CD "So" every single night to get through it. I have every song you've ever recorded and all the bootlegs, including "Secret World Live" and "Live from a Secret World" and "World Secret Live Secret Live"..."
He mostly did what any sane person would do, which was check for exits and suddenly wish he had bodyguards. Actually, he was surprisingly gracious considering how awkward it is to have a stranger come up to you and declare how much they love you. I mean, it's flattering, but you also kind of sit there thinking, "Well, this must be a crushing disappointment for you." Whenever someone introduces themselves to me as a fan I always think I'm supposed to start singing or do something entertaining.
Peter has dealt with this all his life, so he's got a response ready; he just deflects attention. "So, what do you do?"
I was still physically shaking from the Al Gore speech, so I kind of demurred. "Uh, it seems kind of stupid in light of the world ending... I write this silly Mac software."
"Oh, yes, what's it do?"
"Well, uh, it catalogs your stuff... your DVDs and books..."
"Oh! We just got that in our studio! It's really cool, we were all gathered around the other day playing with it and seeing if we could stump it."
"Get OUT!" Ok, I didn't really say that.