asavage on inspiration
August 30, 2011 6:05 PM   Subscribe

A video was posted of Adam Savage's talk on inspiration at the May 2011 San Francisco Bay Area Maker Faire featuring readings from Emerson, Pirsig, and Chandler.

The full bibliography:

Ralph Waldo Emerson: 'Self-Reliance'
Introduction: E. E. Cummings: 'is 5'
Rainer Maria Rilke: 'Letters to a Young Poet'
Tim Gallwey: 'The Inner Game of Tennis'
Robert M. Pirsig: 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance'
Raymond Chandler: 'The Simple Art of Murder'
Lewis Hyde: 'The Gift'

Previously on failure and obsession (about the Maltese Falcon) and rationalism
posted by morganw (24 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Also, from Make's page on the talks (including Mike Rowe's), previous speeches by Adam at Maker Faire San Francisco: 2010 (Problem Solving) 2009 (Failure, already linked above)
posted by morganw at 6:12 PM on August 30, 2011

... *waits for him to chime in* ...
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:25 PM on August 30, 2011

I was present at the talk, and what struck me most was that Adam tried to be inspirational, but the audience wasn't having it - the questions afterward were all stupid. Like jokes about his coworkers and requests for internships on the show.

It was a good, if rambling, talk, but on the whole it was rough to see the reaction.

Regardless, glad to see it online and removed from that crowd.
posted by fake at 6:35 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

It'd be interesting to know how he felt about the reaction. I recognize the Faraday cage behind him, and remember how him climbing inside it and getting zapped by lightning bolts was the big take-away from his talk, at least from the links that immediately came out. Interesting that he chose that setting to talk about philosophy.
posted by crunchland at 7:11 PM on August 30, 2011

... *waits for him to chime in* ...

Not only am I waiting, but I hope he goes apeshit all over one of you!

Thanks for the video. My kids yelled at me for trying to watch it during The Simpsons, so looking forward to watching it later.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:53 PM on August 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

...full on chicken skin...

is "chicken skin" catching on as a synonym for goose bumps? i hope so...
posted by mexican at 8:07 PM on August 30, 2011

"Adam tried to be inspirational, but the audience wasn't having it"

He carries himself lightly, he's unpolished and not self-assured, and he's in earnest.
People are indoctrinated against that. Cynicism is cool (even where inappropriate), there's still a lot of anti-intellectualism around and emphasis on effortless success.
Ralph Waldo Emerwho? Secret heart? Connection? Pfft.

I'm a big fan. The show, obviously, mostly because of the attempt to do research (and the contrast with the "blowed stuff up" idiocracy shows are pretty stark)
But I'm a big Adam Savage fan.Sure I seem more like a Jamie guy. And for a long time there I thought Savage was an annoying gimmicky guy who forced the laughter and was too into being on t.v.
But I caught one show, I don't remember which one, Savage had a welding jacket and gloves on and through the show you see him just busting his ass on this project, he's covered in sweat, not pissed off, but in that zone where you're either full of shit and phoning it in and his genuine dedication was obvious.
Hyneman walks in with some deadpan question or other and Savage just dead level looks him square in the face (which you almost never see with the air of deference he usually has) and tells him he's wrong and they're going to do it this way. No sense there that he's even on camera.
And that's where I think you saw who the guy really is and what's in his heart behind the sort of veneer he's got. So it changed my perspective on him and the show, and particularly what was being said here (it's 'Mythbusting' but it's clearly about more than that).

And indeed, he's talking about it here (the way to "increase concentration on the ball is to learn to love it"). You can see he's got the heart of a master. In his case a master builder. Me, I make a birdhouse it catches fire. Socially, I'm used to command and no one interrupting me so I tend to dominate conversations without intending to. Probably makes me look like more of an ass than I am. In the field, in a studio, different story. I'm all business because that's where my heart lives. All self-doubt, indecision, any character flaws I have fade away and I become one with my craft.

That kind of escape and identification with that greater thing, whether it's making things or music or writing is something more people do need. And once you do that you can recognize others doing it whatever the subject matter ("The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman, and the truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.")

As Savage illustrates with Prisg and really beautifully with Chandler.

But yeah, the crowd does the whole mistaking the finger for what it's pointing at thing.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:29 PM on August 30, 2011 [6 favorites]

I was watching some old Robot Wars videos on youtube after clicking some links somewhere and then I was reading wikipedia articles about the breif history of the sport and it turned out that Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage were the designers of the first spin-bot style battle bot.
posted by delmoi at 12:50 AM on August 31, 2011

Not only am I waiting, but I hope he goes apeshit all over one of you!

Oo, me! Me! I bet I could wrassle 'im!

A few years ago I was invited to a Mythbusters shoot, but I didn't go. They weren't really that huge yet, and I've been gently kicking myself ever since.

But part of the reason I didn't want to go was A) I was feeling scruffy/scrubby and B) I've been on TV, commercial and small film shoots before and it's really easy to get in the way, and it's also often extremely boring and tedious. There's usually a lot of hurry up and wait. There's retakes. There's hyperactive type A production people going apeshit and barking orders and making people move lighting, reflectors, dolly rails, etc.

So, part of it was maybe I didn't actually want to view this particular sausage factory.

But, yeah. Thanks for staying earnest and unvarnished, Mr. Savage. It's good stuff.
posted by loquacious at 12:51 AM on August 31, 2011

the questions afterward were all stupid. Like jokes about his coworkers and requests for internships on the show.

I didn't think they were bad questions from the audience, as far as questions from an audience goes... It's often either awkward silence or silly questions when that happens.

I do think Adam could make a living impromptu dancing in a faraday cage, though.
posted by Packed Lunch at 3:48 AM on August 31, 2011

"stupid" was almost certainly the wrong word. The questions felt disconnected from the talk, incongruous with the setting, and a bit dismissive or lacking consideration of the content presented.

Just expected more, is all - perhaps wrongly.
posted by fake at 6:33 AM on August 31, 2011

This audience of one liked it and is a fan. Why? Because -
1. He reads.
2. He thinks about what he's read.
3. He really thinks hard about what he's read.
4. He applies his reading and thoughts to his life.
5. He tells others about the importance of these works from the heart.
6. He reads Raymond Chandler every three years.
posted by incandissonance at 6:47 AM on August 31, 2011

I saw Savage at a San Francisco W00tstock. I'd been wondering what he was going to do for a live performance -- build a robot on stage? Instead, he gave a slideshow/talk about the things he wished for his children, which sounded like the sort of cheaply manipulative sentimental BS I'd hate.

It was good stuff, and he quickly won me over.
posted by Zed at 9:29 AM on August 31, 2011

Clearly I need to do a talk with only MeFites in the audience.

For the record, no matter what I have talked about in public, when I take questions from the audience, they're always like that. I once requested to NOT get questions like that. I won't make tht mistake again. The audience was audibly displeased at the restriction.

As for polish vs. loosey-goosey, it's on purpose. My talk on the Maltese Falcon for the E.G. conference was super polished (I tried out different versions for around a year) and I'm very proud of it. At the maker faire I'm more interested in keeping it sort of rambling, because new things have occurred to me each time I've spoken for that crowd.

I have a video of a super early attempt at the Maltese Falcon talk from Cafe Du Nord, and the energy of the crowd was amazing and turned it into something quite special.
posted by asavage at 10:14 AM on August 31, 2011 [3 favorites]

I kicked myself after that talk that I'd forgotten a few amazing quotes from Francis Bacon in the book "The Brutality of Fact- Interviews with David Sylvester". Bacon puts some impossible things into a tangible form that's astonishing.
posted by asavage at 10:21 AM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

(thanks for all the nice comments mefites. I always peruse threads about me with trepidation, in fact here on the blue, gray and green is pretty much the only place I do)
posted by asavage at 10:22 AM on August 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

I haven't had time for the longer talks, but the short TED talk on obsession has me electrified. What a beautiful piece of work. Thanks for linking to it.
posted by zylocomotion at 10:56 AM on August 31, 2011

Audience reactions like that are why it's hard to watch some performers in public. Dan Castellanetta was on Conan O'Brien's old show a few years ago, doing typical talk-show banter, and former Simpsons producer Conan tries to quetly broach the subject of the many voices he does on that show. Despite saying he didn't want to be seen as the ringmaster saying "Dance, monkey, dance," once Castellanetta started in with the voices the place just erupted. And the rest of the interview got washed away because of that. Sure, that's what most people wanted (expected) but it's not the ONLY thing. The tyranny of the popular I guess.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:13 PM on August 31, 2011

...Despite Conan saying...
posted by Hardcore Poser at 9:16 PM on August 31, 2011

I'm reading the High Window this week. Synchronicity. Weird.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:57 AM on September 1, 2011

> below are links, some to the original texts

Thanks for that! Now I can prove my dad wrong. He's a retired English professor & claims there *was* no critical theory for Chandler to avoid. My dad is quite a contrarian, though, so even if I find Chandler specifically complaining, my dad will do something like claim the thing-complained-about didn't actually exist.

Anyone notice (I didn't until the 3rd viewing) Adam call out video recording the talk & suggest it would be cool to have the quotes overlay the video?
posted by morganw at 7:45 AM on September 1, 2011

Reebok U.B.U. ad using Emerson quotes
posted by morganw at 8:16 AM on September 1, 2011

Thanks, morganw, for posting this. I'm late to the party but glad I turned up in the end.

And thanks, asavage, for that talk. I too read Chandler at an early age, but unlike you, I haven't really read it again since. Nonetheless, hearing you talk about it made me astonished of the effect it has had on me. Marlowe was my first hero; role model even. I actually have a .txt file of that exact quote from The Simple Art of Murder. In fact, what the hell, it's not long, and by God it bears repeating:
In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption.
It may be pure tragedy, if it is a high tragedy, and it may be pity and
irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But...

down these mean streets a man must go

who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid...
He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common
man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase,
a man of honor -- by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it,
and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world
and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private
life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess
and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor
in one thing, he is that in all things.

He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all.
He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a
sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man's
money dishonestly and no man's insolence without a due and dispassionate
revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as
a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age
talks -- that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust
for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

The story is this man's adventure in search of a hidden truth, and
it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure.
He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right,
because it belongs to the world he live in. If there were enough like him,
the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull
to be worth living in.
posted by Acey at 1:08 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

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