Monday, March 17, 2014

On the road again: TEDActive, Whistler, day 1

I slept nearly eight hours last night and awoke feeling like I had just been scraped off the tire of a semi that had been driving over ridged payment for the last two hours.  Believe it or not, that is a step up from the way I've been feeling, so I am hopeful that I am beginning to mend.

Most of the middle of the day went to work, registering for the conference, talking and eating lunch with Bill, and so on.

I wasn't going to offer the traditional gift-bag contents photo, but it is a blog tradition, so for those who are curious, here it is.

Click on the image to see a larger version.

Most of the items are bits of paper with URLs on them, though the hat, ear buds, bag, and water bottle may be useful.

In the late afternoon, the conference kicked off with an hour of "Inside TED," presentations on what TED is doing in various areas.  I remain impressed by all that Chris Anderson and his team accomplish.

We then spent another hour with various local TEDActive activities.  I've never gotten involved in any of these, but they are a pleasant way for folks to get acquainted.

One of the highlights of that time, though, deserves special mention.  Three of the creators of ads that won TED's Ads Worth Spreading contest came on stage here, and they played the ads.  Though I've seen it before, I still love and admire this one.

Finally, the sessions began.  Because I'm sick and need sleep, and because critiquing every talk would take a huge amount of time, in these TEDActive entries I'm just going to hit a few of the presentations.

Opening the show was cellist Kevin Olusola, who mixed playing the cello with beat-boxing in renditions of four songs from the year of the first TED, 1984.  I quite enjoyed his music.

The first speaker to take the stage was Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT Media Lab, a speaker at the first TED, and a guy who is, in tech circles, genuinely famous.  For my taste, though, his talk today was weak, more "look at all I invented" than useful content.  At the very end, he made a prediction:  In 30 years, we will ingest knowledge in pill form.  I found this the most interesting part of his talk.

Next up was the high point of the talks, a presentation, "Fear Not," by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield.  He spoke beautifully of the magic of going to space, the process of taking off, of doing a space walk, and so much more.  When this talk comes available online, run, not walk, to a browser and watch it.

Hadfield ended his talk by playing guitar and singing a shortened version of Bowie's famous song, "Space Oddity."  Though you've almost certainly seen the video of him singing it on the space station, on the off chance that you haven't--or that you haven't watched it recently, take a few minutes and enjoy it again.

That he sang that song from the space station is, to me, incredibly cool. 

Ziauddin Yousafzai told the inspiring story of his daughter, Malala, who became such a powerful advocate for education for women's education that the Taliban shot her in the face on a bus.  She survived and remains a strong advocate for this cause.  She sent a video to TED but did not come, because she did not want to miss school.  The material was quite strong, but Yousafzai's presentation was a bit flat.

Sculptor Janet Echelman spoke briefly about the installation, "Skies Painted with Unnumbered Sparks," that she created in Vancouver for TED.  I like the photos of her work quite a bit and am sorry I didn't get to see this piece in person. 

Chris chatted briefly with TED founder Richard Saul Wurman in a conversation that made clear how strong TED was initially and how much stronger it has become under Anderson's leadership. 

The final talk of the session and the evening was from musician, producer, and DJ Mark Ronson.  Though I am not a big fan of sampling-heavy music, Ronson's presentation of the history of this type of music and of the motivations of artists to do it left me determined to give it another chance.  His core notion--that artists sample music they love to engage with and become part of the ongoing narrative of that music--spoke to me as a fiction writer. 

For dinner, we walked across the street to the Squamish Lil'wat Culture Centre for a meal of small plates.  For my taste, the best dishes were potato gnocchi with duck and what amounted to bison lasagna.

Bill and I topped off the evening by joining the TEDActive veterans party for a toast to all those who've been at this conference for multiple years.  

Well, crud.  Here I've stayed up late and covered every talk and event.  Tomorrow, we have sessions all day, so expect highlights and only highlights.

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