In Long Beach today, the west coast edition of the biennial TED Conference finally wraps. The much-lauded and loved chat fest features the world’s most brilliant minds and makers presenting 18-minute oral odysseys under the motto “Ideas worth spreading.” Since this is the last day and my phone has yet to ring, I’m assuming they won’t need me as a last-minute replacement speaker. As usual. So, yes, waiter, I’ll have that third pint and raise a toast to TED for somehow being twee, smug, precious and profound all at once. Without my help.
Perhaps I didn’t fit this year’s theme, “The Young. The Wise. The Undiscovered,” seeing as I only represent the last bit. I scoured the TED website looking for another slogan to fail at and found “Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” Scored two strikes and a walk on that one. I got “free.” Loads of “free.” And as long as people keep refusing to pay me, I’ll keep making it. With enough hard work, I might even get to “cheap.”
Speaking of cheap, TED is not. At $6,000 a ticket, only the young, wise and undiscovered can afford it. To TED’s credit, however, much of their material ends up free online, subsidized, as it is, by the expense accounts and trust funds of twenty-somethings.
The most popular of TED’s online offerings are its videos. I’ve watched and shared a slew of them but can’t help but feel they’re missing a tremendous opportunity to franchise the concept. Sure, independently produced and TED-sanctioned “TEDx” events have proliferated like mushrooms or Starbucks, but they haven’t much improved upon the TED formula. Might we assume in some parallel universe somewhere (like my mind) that there are other TED-inspired conferences. Take for example...
DED Talks – Even zombies need the occasional “aha!” moment (though usually it’s just part of an “aharrgh!” moment). Ironic they would need food for thought since their diet consists mostly of brains.
BED Talks – Like a post-coital pillow talk between lovers, but with one person asleep and the other endless monologuing about their issues. Popular Bed Talks include, “Sorry, This Has Never Happened Before” and, “I’m Not Crying Because Of You But Of Course You Would Think That.”
BLED Talks – TED for vampires and their victims. Recent talks included innovative dental dams to prevent the spread of blood-borne disease and a low cost “digital mirror” that allows vampires to see themselves.
HED Talks – The Talking Heads’ David Byrne, “Eraserhead” director David Lynch and the dude who played Max Headroom try to host a panel about the ’80s. It gets weird – especially when Nic Cage shows up and kicks in Headrooom’s TV with a snakeskin boot. Sparks rain upon him as he gets all crazy-eyed and crows, “Same as it ever was!” while karate-chopping the air.
FED Talks – Federal agents, the proverbial “men in black,” don’t do a lot of talking so the FED Talks amount to little more than awkward silence, except for the sound of paper shredders and occasional gunplay.
JED Talks – Various hillbillies explore innovations in alternative energy like “black gold” and “Texas Tea.”
QED Talks – A conference for smart-asses in which each speaker “proves” the preceding speaker wrong. And no one gets laid.
READ Talks – Lesser-known people read transcripts of their more famous peers’ TED Talks. A splinter group rebels and forms SAID Talks, which is the exact same thing except out loud.
WED Talks – An avid exploration of why nobody pronounces the “D” in Wednesday. Held on a Thursday due to scheduling error.
ZED Talks – Their motto: “We may not have the last word but we have the last letter” has fared better than, “Get Some Z’s at ZED,” which only attracted insomniacs.