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INSIDE THE EG PROGRAMS

EG: No other conference gathers such inventive makers and doers — among the best in the world — and no other conference assembles such inspired, edgy, joyful programs, with such richness of interests.

What should an EG program book look like? It’s an interesting design question. The booklets need to mirror and intensify the creative flair of the conference.

The visual language we chose: comic books. Our program books look and feel a bit like the vintage comic books you collected and traded when you were a kid: colorful, perky, creative. Year after year, it has been a delight to design these books with Ana Sanchez, Assi Glikshtein and their creative team at AllPopart.com. And each year, we work with our friends at Acme Bookbinding to print the books, using HP’s state-of-the-art Indigo press to produce gorgeous printed copies.

Over the years, we have transformed presenters into art house movie posters, vintage circus performers, famous oil paintings, comic book figures, and heroes of pulp science fiction. For the 2013 EG7 book, we wanted an aspirational motif — something that evoked the frontiers of learning — and we found one: great explorers and inventors, as seen through energetic vintage photographs.

Okay. Put yourself in the shoes of our designers for a moment. Let’s take two examples.

AN APT IMAGE.

First, consider Michael Apted, the accomplished British movie director.

Michael Apted
Filmmaker

The UP Series.
Michael is a master of fiction (The World Is Not Enough, Coal Miner's Daughter) as well as factual genres (Gorillas In The Mist), with dozens of major credits in film and television. He has also served as the President of the Director’s Guild of America, among the many stars his CV. But Michael may be best known for the UP series of documentaries: one of the most extraordinary achievements in cinema, these films chronicle the lives of 14 British children, visiting them every 7 years from the age of 7 to the present. It’s a staggering body of work — a time capsule covering 50 years of personal life.

So. Suppose you need to design a page for Michael in the program booklet. Any ideas come to mind? Perhaps something that captures the adventure and tenacity and drive that a great director needs to bring to a great filmic endeavor?

We came up with the image below. It is Herbert George Ponting: also British, Ponting was an intrepid photographer and pioneering filmmaker who became most famous for his work documenting the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition to Antarctica in 1911 led by Robert Falcon Scott. Scott and his party of four other explorers perished while struggling to return from the South Pole, but Ponting and his photographs survived to tell the tale. Ponting brought with him a cinematograph — one of the earliest motion picture cameras — to capture movies of Scott and his crew, a landmark achievement more than a century ago.

Ponting’s movie was eventually released nearly twenty years later: there is a trailer and you can also watch the film in its entirety with appearances by Ponting. Not long ago, an archive of "lost photographs" was found, and the Scott Polar Archive was fully digitized in 2011. Memories of an age of wonder.

A MUSICAL PICTURE

Now: how about musician Linda Ronstadt?

Linda has collaborated with a fabulously diverse array of artists in eclectic genres, but all of her musical choices have deep roots: she said at EG that she doesn’t perform anything she didn’t first sing with her family, as a kid growing up at home. There’s a deeply rooted organic sensibility to her selections, and that may be part of the reason her music has touched so many people: she has released over 30 solo albums, won numerous awards (Grammy, Emmy, ALMA, Tony...), and sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

What kind of artwork might you envision for Ms. Ronstadt?

Our event designer, Christopher Newell, found a source image that rang bells: this beautiful old color photograph of a Japanese folk singer. It looks like she’s belting out a heart-rending song while accompanying herself on the shamisen. We fell in love with this image, which came from the National Geographic archive, and our friend Keith Bellows at National Geographic graciously provided a high-quality scan of it, although there was no other information about it apart from the name of the photographer. It turned out to be much more special than we could have imagined.

What do we know about the Japanese girl? Well, first of all, she’s blind — the telltale is that bamboo stick leaning against her waist: it’s her guide cane. She’s known as a goze, one of a caste of visually impaired Japanese women who mainly worked as musicians from 1600 until 1900, roughly. They spent a good part of their time on the road, walking from village to village, dependent upon the charity of farmers and villagers. Like the old Appalachian folk music that Alan Lomax and Jerry Wiesner struggled to record, goze music is an art form that died out in the lifetime of our grandparents. Wouldn’t you love to hear what that song sounded like? Unfortunately, there’s little information on the internet about the music of the goze apart from that Wikipedia entry, and most of the repertoire of songs are lost. But some recordings do survive, and a brief video trailer about the music exists.

The story of this picture doesn’t end there, though. Who took it?

That perfect, poignant photograph was captured by a remarkable young woman, Eliza Scidmore (1856-1928), and it appeared in the April 1912 edition of National Geographic Magazine, which was propitious timing as you will see.

Ms. Scidmore (pronounced SID-more), who had met Abraham Lincoln as a child, attended Oberlin college as a young woman, pursued an adventurous career in the fledgling industry of photojournalism, and, by her late 20’s, she hit the road for Japan, traveling on the coattails of her older brother who worked in the U.S. diplomatic corps in Tokyo.

Scidmore traveled all over Asia as well as Alaska (where a glacier was named after her), but really was most deeply smitten with Japan, and her brother’s position gave her extraordinary and intimate entrée to otherworldly cultural moments that few westerners could imagine.

  • cherry blossoms

  • Japanese girls in a tea ceremony. Hand-colored photo, early 1900's.

  • The most beautiful tree in Japan. Kanazawa public gardens, 1914.

By 1890 she joined National Geographic (which was two years old at the time; she was 34), where she was very active both as a working photojournalist, editor, and as the Society’s first female board member. In 1896, for instance, she published this story about the Meiji-Sanriku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. That quake and tsunami killed nearly 27,000 people and initiated Japan’s ambitious struggle to defend itself against these catastrophes (by contrast, the 2011 tsunami killed over 15,000). And she didn’t simply bring the news and the photographs: as a matter of fact, it was she who brought the word tsunami into the English lexicon.

A very private person, Eliza never married, but instead poured her energy into vigorous travels and writing — and into a most unusual venture. In 1885, when she was 29 and returning from Japan with her brother, she hatched the idea of bringing Japanese cherry trees to Washington. Scidmore then spent more than 20 years pestering and lobbying people to pull it off. Helen “Nellie” Taft took an interest in the idea: as it happened, Mrs. Taft had lived briefly in Japan — and in fact, had visited Japan several times with Eliza Scidmore’s mother. Mrs. Taft’s support was no doubt crucial, and by 27 March 1912, Eliza and Mrs. Taft (who was the most widely traveled First Lady the United States had seen when she and President William Howard Taft moved into the White House in 1909) attended the inaugural planting of what would become more than three thousand cherry trees, a gift of the people of Japan. Today, the thought of Washington without the cherry trees is unimaginable. But it all blossomed entirely from Ms. Scidmore’s vision and tenacity.

So it was hardly by chance that a few days later, the April 1912 issue of the National Geographic Magazine featured Ms. Scidmore’s evocative photos of Japan, including that beautiful blind goze singer. Scidmore was affectionately profiled in the Washington Post last year, marking the 100th anniversary of the planting of the cherry trees.

And, incidentally, April of 1912 was a dramatic moment in history: On the same day Ms. Scidmore planted the first cherry trees, Scott’s party was hours away from death, and he left behind a final heartbreaking message published a year later by the New York Times. About two weeks later, on 16 April, Harriet Quimby (whose photograph became Brandy Gale in our program booklet) became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. Sadly, nobody paid any attention: the Titanic sank the day before. Adding to the drama, Ms. Quimby herself perished in a plane crash just a few months later.

All of this hints at the richness of EG: behind every presenter there is a whole creative world, and we hope our playful illustrations add to the wonder of sharing those frontiers.

Registration for EG8 in Monterey, 1-3 May 2014, is now open. For recent announcements, click here.

Michael Hawley, EG director
mike@the-eg.com 


’’WHAT PEOPLE SAY...

  • I don’t know how something as magical as EG can come together year after year, but I don’t ask questions. I just go.

    Matthew Harding
    — Internet Dance Phenomenon

  • It wasn’t just an unforgettable conference: it stands apart from all other conferences I’ve attended. I was slightly astonished to be there.

    Seth Roberts
    — Professor of Psychology

  • I begin to feel like a broken record as I profusely and repeatedly thank you.

    Eric Mead
    — Magician

  • EG is the single best event of its sort in the world. Nowhere else am I exposed to so many geniuses from such a variety of backgrounds. No other show takes so many successful risks. No other conference introduces me to so many new ideas. Finally, the mood and energy of EG are genuinely magical: in a way that’s difficult to describe, one comes away from EG with one’s faith in humanity’s creativity and good will renewed.

    Jason Pontin
    — Editor in Chief, MIT Technology Review

  • I am swimming, buoyed with ideas, music, stories, images!

    Amy Tan
    — Author

  • I’m speechless. Utterly speechless. Thanks for the honor of presenting. I’ll be there next year.

    Rich Wilson
    — Sailor

  • Possibly the best three day period of my life.

    Barry Reder

  • To give me the chance to present something I am passionate about was a privilege and an honor. But even more, the opportunity to have an informal interchange of ideas with creative geniuses is priceless. It’s what makes EG not a conference but an oasis of ideas. The feeling of comraderie and the new-found friendships will last a lifetime. Granis and I flew home without a plane.

    Ken Kamler
    — Microsurgeon, Doctor on Everest

  • The magic is back in Monterey!
    EG was three amazing days of brain enrichment, information sharing, idea brainstorming, networking and making new friends for life that are not to be missed. EG continues to be the highlight of my year.

    Sallie Olmsted
    — Rogers & Cowan

  • We were just enthralled with the people you gathered together, and with the marvelous creativity that was manifested everywhere. There were so many highlights, and we are still processing what we heard and learned.

    Walter Alvarez
    — Professor of Geology, Berkeley

  • Kicked Ass!
    I am still high as a kite.

    Jill Sobule
    — Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist

  • EG was wonderful! I truly enjoyed all of it. I sat in that auditorium for nearly three days straight listening to one compelling speaker/entertainer after another, and I never got bored once. I have already raved to several colleagues and friends about how they must attend next year. And I’ll be there for sure.

    Sarah Factor
    — Discovery Communications, Inc.

  • I can’t describe what a wonderful time I had at the conference this year: it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Not a day has passed since I returned home that I have not thought about one of the presentations.

    Jane Pyle
    — Genentech

  • Bless you. That was one f***ing awesome conference.

    A.J. Jacobs
    — Human Guinea Pig & Author

  • Best conference I go to.

    Scott Cook
    — Founder & Chairman, Intuit.

  • All your toil and pain enduring the recession was so rewarded by what your audience experienced. All I can say is: thanks. Please bask in the afterglow of the wonderful success...so enjoyed by all in your audience. It just felt so right all the way through.

    Scott Cook
    — Founder & Chairman, Intuit

  • What we like about EG is the intimacy — one of the qualities I admired in the early TED Conferences — and the chance to visit with presenters.

    Richard Marcus
    — former CEO, Neiman Marcus

  • EG is an amazing collection of fascinating people sharing extraordinary lives and stories. It will be on my schedule for years to come.

    Nolan Bushnell
    — Entrepreneur

  • Nothing could have prepared me, nor anyone, for EG. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences in my life — to hear the tales of so many inspiring people, some of whose work I know, others I’m embarrassed not to know, but every single person we should all know about. The heady mix of speakers and audience members was inspiring and humbling in equal measure and the tone and timing of the few days beautifully measured to allow the exchange, challenge and creation of ideas. You’ll need to shackle me to Soyuz and send me to space to stop me coming again. Please please take great heart from the eyes and souls of every person that attended... We all left wanting, needing more.

    Oliver Steeds
    — Explorer

  • EG is a complete about-face from my everyday responsibilities: I only walk away with benefits.

    Hanna Cho
    — Cisco

  • EG was amazing...truly inspirational. I have been to lots of TED conferences and there was something about this mix of speakers and the sense of community that made this a very special gathering. I would rank it at the top.

    Esther Wojcicki
    — Teacher

  • Show & Tell for geniuses.

    Janet Kirker

  • It wasn’t just an unforgettable conference: it stands apart from all other conferences I’ve attended. I was slightly astonished to be there.

    Seth Roberts
    — Psychologist

  • I thought it was so great I want to attend every one. EG really stimulated my thinking and was as entertaining as anything I’ve ever attended.

    Steve Wozniak
    — Apple co-founder

  • EG...? The best.

    Richard Marcus
    — former CEO, Neiman Marcus

  • Wow. Just: wow. You know that I speak and perform at many conferences each year, and each has its own charms, strengths and weaknesses. EG is, for me, the heavyweight champion. There is an atmosphere of openness, of genuine interest in people and the interests of other people, and a sense of community and sharing that is stronger at EG than other conferences I present at or attend. You and your team are to be congratulated — and deeply, sincerely thanked — for three days of inspiration, education, and connections that will last a lifetime.

    Eric Mead
    — Magician

  • It was great. The best.
    “An Institute for Advanced Study” for the rest of us.

    George Dyson
    — Science Historian.

  • Julius Caesar said, “Experience is the teacher of all things.” Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” John Keats said, “Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced.” Thank you EG for providing some of the most profound moments I have experienced. You have taught, stretched, and made real ideas that make my world a better place.

    Jonathan Knowles
    — Autodesk

  • EG is the best conference in the world.

    Paul Hoffman
    — Director, Liberty Science Center

  • I can’t begin to thank you enough for the invitation to be part of EG. The conference was incredibly inspiring... I am indebted to you in many, many ways. The world is a better and more inspiring place because of what you do.

    Sandy Smolan
    — Documentary Filmmaker

  • MIND BLOWING AND INTIMATE. BRAIN CANDY. LIKE THE EARLY TED...

    Gigi Brisson
    — Cofounder, Attractor Investment Management

  • EG was the most inspirational gathering I’ve ever experienced.

    Bryant Austin
    — Whale Photographer

  • EG was the best gathering I’ve been to in years. Maybe ever. Please keep me A-listed.

    Mike Naimark
    — Professor of Interactive Media, USC

  • EG is all I have been able to talk about. It changed my life direction.

    Leslie Olson
    — Partner, Olson & Olson.

  • Best conference anywhere.

    Eric Mead
    — Magician.

  • It was amazing.

    Natalie Tyler Tran
    — YouTube Maestra

  • It was fabulous. I felt honored to be a part of it all.

    David Hillis
    — Biologist, MacArthur Laureate

  • I’m still not “back to normal.” Once again, EG has succeeded in completely surprising me. This time I thought I would be prepared for its impact. But reviewing those three days in my head (which I have been doing continuously) reminds me how impossible that is. I can’t begin to imagine what it takes to pull off something like this. I can only say that you, and that incredible staff of yours, do a phenomenal job. Bravo! (Standing O!!) I eventually could talk to Maisie Crow without bursting into tears! (though my eyes are filled with tears now, just thinking about it.) Deep, deep bow.

    Bruce Shapiro
    — Mechatronic Sculptor

  • Three days of unrelenting inspiration.
    A chance to hear, dine and play with one’s artistic heroes in person. The most profitable and exhilarating short vacation I can imagine.

    Teller
    — Magician

  • Thank you SOO much for having me!! I really could not have imagined anything so inspiring, so motivating, and so much fun — every moment of EG10 is engraved in my heart!!

    Anna Lee
    — Violinist

  • EG was fantastic. Inspiring, enlightening, diverse, and magical.

    Aaron Tang
    — Designer

  • A truly amazing experience. I met some of the most amazing people on this planet!

    Sebastian Thrun
    — Stanford & Google

  • I had the time of my life. I only wish that my colleagues, family and friends could have the same experience.

    Jennifer Hurley-Wales
    — Co-Founder, From The Top

  • Absolutely amazing.
    The most wonderful event I’ve ever attended.

    Paul Horowitz
    — Professor of Physics, Harvard.

  • The art/tech/math/science integration has me pondering my future... A life-changing event.

    Tom Gruber
    — Apple

  • Significant extraordinary experiences — not only enjoyable, but important. There is simply nothing like it.

    Jonathan Knowles
    — Autodesk

  • EG went far beyond my expectations. I feel so fortunate to have been part of the event. I thank you for that and will never forget any of the impressive presentations. And now for you, my friend. You could invite all the interesting people you want but you managed in some very clever way to weave a program together that moved seamlessly together to a perfect crescendo. That was quite the masterpiece. I know it wasn’t easy but the outcome flowed like water. Congratulations on your resounding success. You should be so proud of the energy you generated in a mere three days. I was sad to see the conference come to an end but to be honest, any more and my head might have exploded.

    Mark Stutzman
    — Illustrator

  • I’ve been to plenty of conferences, seminars and the like. EG isn’t anything like them. The buzz started early on and just kept vibrating throughout the sessions and social moments. We all took something away from the experience that enriched us. I had life changing experiences.

    Susan Slaymaker
    — Artist Management

  • Great show! I am committed to attend the next one. It’s a vacation for your mind — a place where your mind can be set free to explore.

    Richard Kerris
    — CEO, KMA

  • Hardly a day has passed in all these months afterward that I haven’t thought about something that happened at EG.

    Dick Cavett
    — Television Host & Raconteur

  • I attend many events on behalf of FORA.tv, from Chautauqua to the Aspen Ideas Festival to Amsterdam’s PICNIC. But rarely have I experienced an event with one revelation and deep personal insight after another. You have achieved that rare success, an event that leads one to view life and art in wholly new ways. I feel privileged to have attended.

    Brian Gruber
    — Founder, FORA.tv

  • AMAZING! THE BEST! BRAVO!

    Gregg Spiridellis

  • EG was outstanding! The best event I have ever attended.

    Bill Takeshita
    — Pediatric Optometrist

  • EG is the single best event of its sort in the world.

    Jason Pontin
    — Editor in Chief, MIT Technology Review

  • I have talked of little else since EG.
    I had a very rich experience — one of the best of my life. I have to believe it was happening to many others there too. Please, please proceed.

    Alvy Ray Smith
    — Cofounder, PIXAR

  • Thank you ever so much. Truthfully, Janet and I can’t stop talking about the presentations. They have definitely stimulated our dendrites, particularly those in the middle (emotions). I have never had such a great and entertaining 3 days in my life. I was brought near tears by the quality of the presenters as well as their presentations. I wind up feeling that our greatest advances come from people like these, with such high integrity toward their work and goals.

    Steve Wozniak
    — Apple co-founder