GOOD

A calendar of the events you shouldn't miss in the year ahead.

1 The Inauguration January 20The 44th president will solemnly swear to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.2 Davos World Economic Forum January 28–February 1Fifteen hundred of the world's most influential wonks, ministers, and hangers-on cavort in the Swiss Alps for their annual policy retreat. This year's fitting topic? "Shaping the Post-Crisis World."3 Abraham Lincoln's 200th Birthday February 12More than 80 exhibits are planned for Washington, D.C., museums to celebrate the life of the Great Emancipator. A few months later, on Memorial Day, the president will speak at the rededication of the Lincoln Memorial.

4 Charles Darwin's 200th Birthday February 12It's a humanist twofer-the 12th is also Charles Darwin's bicentennial. His hometown of Shrewsbury, England, will hold a big bash for its favorite heretical son.5 A.N.S.W.E.R. March 21The antiwar group marks the sixth anniversary of the Iraq invasion with a day of protests outside the White House. Will Obama stroll out to the front lawn for a chat?6 Green Apple Festival April 19The world's biggest Earth Day celebration stages 10 free concerts in major cities (New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco among them) to honor our planet.

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Burned by Desire

Lea Thau and the Moth encourage regular people to turn personal moments into public performances.

It takes a rare kind of courage to live like a character in a story, and not many real-life human beings have the nerve to try it-perhaps because the elements that make a narrative compelling also make life miserable. Most people are too attached to the things that make them happy (honor, love, and friendship) to appreciate the subtle appeal of those things that might make them into more interesting protagonists (disgrace, heartbreak, and loneliness).Luckily, though, even prudent people will occasionally commit spectacular acts of mischief in pursuit of happiness. And when they do, the Moth is waiting-with an audience and a microphone. Since 1997, the storytelling organization has helped more than 4,000 people tell their tales of crimes, misdemeanors, and epic lapses in judgment. Few of the stories are downers-most, in fact, have uplifting messages-but it's hard to pull off a heartwarming finish without making at least a brief detour into misery."So there I am in bed with my future ex-husband...""I am 24 years old and I have never had sex...""My aunt Crissy always used to tell us, ‘I've done it all-crystal meth, topless dancing, running guns through Mexico...'"This tension between desire and danger, between the things we want and the risks we'll take, helps explain how the Moth got its name. "We're always drawn back to that essential flame that fuels us and has the potential to destroy us," says Lea Thau, 36, who has been running the show since 2002, first as creative director and then as executive director. "The best stories are born from the moments when we got our wings burned or clipped a little."The Moth is best known for its monthly Mainstage performances in New York, during which five or six storytellers present personal tales on the evening's theme ("Loss," "Love Hurts," "Out on a Limb," to name a few). The shows feature a mix of high-profile headliners (writers or actors with a well-developed feel for narrative, like Malcolm Gladwell or Margaret Cho) and regular people who have had simply unbelievable things happen to them. Alumni from this latter group include a voodoo priestess, a retired pickpocket, and a guy getting squeezed by the Mob.\n\n\n
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The best stories are born from the moments when we got our wings burned or clipped a little.
Thau and her assistant directors work with the performers for weeks to help them find the emotional core of their stories. She jokes that this process can feel a little like therapy-and then what happened? And how did that make you feel?-but the purpose is very different. She's trying to coax out a well-rounded narrative, not a well-rounded person. Ultimately, says Thau, "it's about stepping out of the story" and figuring out what will make it connect with others. The goal is to draw people in, to provide a communal experience that goes beyond entertainment; something that you simply can't get through a blog or a BlackBerry. Every Mainstage performance since 1998 has sold out-usually in the first few hours.The stories are not scripted or memorized. They are told spontaneously-alive and in the moment. At the end of the day, performers have to get up on stage, without notes, and tell hundreds of people about one of the most personal things that ever happened to them. That, says Thau, is a terrifying prospect for almost anyone and the nerves and adrenalin can push the atmosphere to a sort of theatrical synergy. One storyteller gushed, "It's as if everyone in the room is holding hands under the table."Part of that connection lies in the fact that while the people in the audience are watching the person on stage, a little mothlike voice inside each of them is saying, "Maybe I could do this, too." For them, the Moth has created StorySLAMs, open-mic nights in which 10 people compete to tell the best story.\n

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Into the Coal Mine

The Canary Project documents the ravages of climate change with breathtaking pictures.

In the summer of 2006, city buses in Denver were plastered with images of a dead, desiccated horse hanging upside down from a tree in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. The horse had been deposited there by the 25-foot floodwaters accompanying Hurricane Katrina. Adjoining this photo was another, of a desolate stretch of bleached-out coral reef in Belize. And next to that, a photo series of 1,600-foot-wide ponds formed by a melting Austrian glacier. A caption read, "This Is What Global Warming Looks Like."An estimated 300,000 people saw the pictures, the first major commission for the Canary Project, a group of artists who tell the story of climate change through their work. Its founders, Ed Morris and Susannah Sayler, have collaborated on various projects for the past 14 years, starting with Morris's senior English thesis in college: an exhibition that combined his poetry and her photographs in an investigation of three arbitrarily selected Steins: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sergei Eisenstein, and Gertrude Stein (this was Wesleyan, 1994). Morris and Sayler are now married.They were inspired to create the Canary Project after reading a series of three 2005 New Yorker articles on climate change by Elizabeth Kolbert. At the time, Sayler, 36, was working as a travel and landscape photographer and Morris, 34, was a private investigator. "We both thought of global warming as something that would be happening in the future," says Sayler. Kolbert's articles "were like an alarm clock." Morris and Sayler decided to do with pictures what Kolbert had done with words-visit places threatened by climate change in order to convey the real-time experience of a warming planet.\n\n\n
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There's a reason that I don't shoot polar bears.
Three years later, the pair has traveled to 12 locations, with Sayler taking the photographs and Morris guiding their overall organization and display. Dead horses notwithstanding, Sayler's subjects tend to be sparse and unsentimental: a glacier's flank, a stand of smol-dering trees, a smoke-filled sky, a shack in the desert. They're mysterious, not chilling; eerie, not alarmist. "There's a reason that I don't shoot polar bears or people in a landscape," she says, "which is that we do also want to convey the sense of nature's autonomy and separateness."The images resonate on a visceral level, but they're also ground-ed in the data of climate science-the captions are sprinkled with references to Nature articles and papers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This is partly a result of their approach: Before traveling to each new location, Morris and Sayler consult with experts at NASA and Harvard who then put them in touch with local scientists. Most of these scientists have years of data on how their particular region is responding to global warming."It's not hard to start seeing every picture as a portal," notes Morris. "If you could just walk through that photograph, you'd find yourself in a room full of stories and charts and graphs." His next goal is to include this kind of information in their shows.

In addition to stark pictures of the effects of climate change, the Canary Project presents potential solutions, like wind turbines in California.

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Agent Provocateur

Charlie Todd is making it up as he goes along-one quirky stunt at a time.

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