I had many favorite moments at last year’s AJC Decatur Book Festival — books! and people who like them! hooray! — but among the best was a session of good-natured, dry-humored, quiz-show fun courtesy of Will Pearson, co-founder of Mental Floss. Lucky us, he’s back in Atlanta tonight as part of SCAD’s Ivy Hall Writers Series, the very same one that brought Margaret Atwood to town last week, and bring Joel Cohen later this month.
Here’s an interview with Pearson by my colleague Jennifer Brett, who you can follow over at The Buzz. This ran in Tuesday’s print edition of the AJC:
Angelina Jolie. Mahatma Gandhi. Angelina. Gandhi. Who can tell them apart?
Actually, you’d be surprised how often they – or their pronouncements, at least – get confused. That’s the word from Will Pearson, president and co-founder of Mental Floss, the magazine that offers actual knowledge instead of celebrity gossip and photo spreads.
He’ll appear at SCAD Atlanta from 6:30 to 8 p.m. tonight.
“I don’t know if people have lost the yen for learning,” he said during an interview the other day. “I don’t know whether we are an ADD society or whether we just act like one.”
But in the rush to make sure students achieve high test scores, he said, it seems we are missing out on tidbits that might not boost our numbers but are cool to know nonetheless.
“It’s OK to learn for learning’s sake,” said Pearson, who with Mangesh Hattikudur founded the publication while they were students at Duke University. Their top-notch education aside, the two felt there were things missing from their coursework, and launched Mental Floss to fill in the gaps.
“In our history classes, sometimes our teachers were so focused on making sure we got the right dates that we didn’t get the personality traits of historical figures,” he said.
To wit: he doesn’t recall discussing in class why composer Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky conducted with one hand on his chin. (He was afraid his head might fall off. Really.)
“The generations I worry about the most are the ones growing up with all this technology,” Pearson said. “There’s this constant need to stay tapped in, go back and forth with e-mail, Facebook. We’re so overwhelmed.”
While we update our Twitter feed, just try and guess whether Jolie or Gandhi said the following: “We can die at anytime so we must live fully in the moment.”
Stumped? You’ll just have to go hear Pearson, who often begins his appearances with this quirky quiz.
Want to go? Mental Floss co-founder Will Pearson visits for the Ivy Hall Writers Series. 6:30 p.m. March 2. Free. SCAD Atlanta, Events Space, fourth floor, Building C, 1600 Peachtree St., Atlanta. 404-253-2759, www.scad.edu/ivyhall.