Elements of Style: The Movie!

I’ve recently become obsessed with the TED talks. And if you don’t know what TED is, you’re in for a treat. Like the most delicious treat, ever.

These 20-minute “genius lectures” (TED stands for “Technology, Entertainment, Design”) take place at the invitation-only annual TED conference and are rebroadcast online at TED.com. To date, there are 370 speeches with a new one added each weekday. The conference draws the most brilliant minds in the world, from fashion designers to brain scientists. With no time for a warmup, each talk is equally fascinating and furiously explosive.

I’ve started watching these talks while I eat lunch. Today I chose the artist/writer Maira Kalman to accompany my tarragon chicken sandwich. Now, I have been a fan of Kalman for a long time and have loved everything she’s ever done, from her whimsical children’s books (which I bought and love even though I have no children) to her New Yorker covers, in particular the one that renames boroughs of New York with such names as “Youdontunderstandistan,” “Kvetchnya” and “Botoxia.” 

So it was with sheer joy that I learned Kalman recently illustrated E.B. White’s famous slim tome, The Elements of Style. My guess is she felt a certain kinship with White for his own playful use of language to illustrate his points and took it upon herself to literally illustrate them. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but “Polly loves cake more than she loves me” is right up there, as is “Be wild of tongue in a way we can understand.”

You can see more of them on her website and even watch a short film she made about it. Ah, Maira. We’ll wax poetic about White’s fine appreciation for grammar another day.  

And if you’re curious to learn more about the TED talks, check out “Confessions of a TED Addict.” I think the writer was a little harsh on Tony Robbins, whose talk I really liked. But I did agree with the rave review of My Stroke of Insight author and brain scientist, Jill Bolte Taylor, who studied her own stroke as it happened. 

So, which one should I watch with lunch tomorrow?

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