Kara Swisher

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EG: It Lives!


With the continued convergence of media and tech, I would be remiss if I did not mention the return of the very fine EG (The Entertainment Gathering) conference Dec. 2-4 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles.

Launched two years ago by impresario Richard Saul Wurman (who, by the way, named our own D conference), it is now being directed my MIT’s Michael Hawley (pictured below). The event will have more than 50 presenters and 500 attendees, with an unusual mix of folks.


The presenters include: Actor Robert Downey Jr.; Ian Dunbar, canine expert and dog trainer; former Disney CEO Michael Eisner; Donald Jackson, royal calligrapher to Queen Elizabeth II; and “Heroes” creator Tim Kring.

Hawley answered our questions via email:

BoomTown: Essentially you are taking over from Richard’s first one?

Hawley: Essentially, yes. We’re partners, actually, but I’ve got infinite rope. Richard is being more genuinely supportive, more enthusiastic and more hands-off than most people could possibly imagine.

BoomTown: What are your aims for it?

Hawley: To be honest, I’m a bit weary of high-end packaged conferences. But I’m never tired of spending great time with incredible people. I’m designing EG to be the kind of conference I would beg to attend.

“Frankly, I decided to run it for a very personal reason. Last year, the schedule slipped off the tracks because of all things, Bill Nye and Blair Tindall had an impromptu wedding in the middle of the conference. Instead of giving my presentation, I wound up playing the Chopin sonata for piano and cello, an absolutely gorgeous piece I’ve wanted to play all my adult life.

“But I’ve never had a cellist who knew it and loved it. Thank God Yo-Yo Ma was there. We had a terrific time playing. I think it was a magic moment for many people, not just me, and that sort of thing tends not to happen at most conferences.

“It’s more the norm for EG–by design. Anyway, I told myself that I ought to keep EG going until Yo-Yo comes back, so we can play the other two movements. (He’s got a big gig with the BSO [Boston Symphony Orchestra] that conflicts this year, unfortunately. But we have Leon Fleisher, the great American pianist.)

“So, what I’m aiming for is an event that will be a breeder reactor for magical, wonderfully unexpected connections like these. Richard’s conferences have changed my life, and have profoundly affected thousands of people.

“I am keeping EG intimate (no overflow room); it isn’t an orgy. The Getty has been absolutely wonderful to work with and is an ideal site in many ways.

“On the face of it, EG celebrates the entertainment industry, which is kind of like a supercharger for the engine of L.A., and L.A. is perhaps the most dynamic and creative pocket in the world. At some level, the entertainment world inspires and affects most facets of modern life.

“The instinct to create a brilliant, eclectic event and plunk it down like a great big cherry on top of the sundae of L.A. was Richard’s.

“I do want EG to reflect the wildly diverse creative genius of L.A., and it does. But the choices also say a lot about me and my tastes. Marvin Minsky was my adviser and “father” at MIT and I’m really pleased that he contacted me to speak here.

“Nicholas Negroponte is a dear friend and colleague, and in some ways my closest mentor. He’s so busy with “One Laptop Per Child” that I didn’t want to bug him to present. But he got in touch and asked to come, in part because he has ardently participated in every one of Wurman’s events and cherishes the uniqueness of them.

“Amy Tan and I became odd friends on a trip to Bhutan, and have shared some really special, wonderful memories together. I’m working hard to make EG the kind of event she’d really enjoy.

“Some of the people presenting really are living national treasures. Some are young rising stars. Some offer the wisdom of a lifetime of accomplishments.

“I agonized over every invitation, and not just for the presenters, but for all attendees (I’m trying to be personally in touch with every one). For EG, my goal is to bring out the best of the best, and not get in the way too much.”

Sign us up, especially for the sundae with a big cherry on top part.