By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“Yes!” he exclaims, pumping his elbows like a gratified sports fan. “It felt so good to bust that stereotype.”
In truth, the shamelessly self-?promotional Warren gave back 25 years of ?his salary to his church when his book earned tens of millions in royalties with the help of self-proclaimed “pyromarketer” Greg Stielstra. The sizable marketing segment of the EG 2006 audience might find that information useful, but Warren won’t share. “I don’t want anyone to think I’m in it for the money,” he says.
The Last of Its Kind
It is late afternoon, nod-off time at most conferences, and Jeff Corwin, the cherubic-faced, daredevil host of Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin Experience, is telling a story about a bird. Corwin, who in person trades the naif act he plays on his television show for the role of the authoritative biologist, is not the biggest fan of birds, he admits; he prefers snakes. (“Beware of ‘charismatic species syndrome,’ ” he warns.) But one day, he tells the audience, he was invited by a fellow biologist in Hawaii to come to a research center to see a particular bird, a species of Hawaiian honeycreeper. The biologist asked him to dress in protective gear and dip his shoes in bleach to prevent the spread of germs; then he was led into a vault, where he saw a small yellowish bird hopping about and twittering.
Corwin was perplexed. “I ask them, ‘Why is this bird so special?’
“And they say, ‘Because it’s the last one.’
“Later, I thought of that bird, coming to the edge of its perch every day, calling for a mate that . . . will . . . never . . . ever . . . come.”
The woman next to me fumbles in her purse and comes up with a little white ball of tissue, with which she dabs her eyes. I just use my sleeve.
Life in Heaven
In the conference’s final hours, Matt Groening goes before Wurman on bended knee, and holds one of Wurman’s hands with both of his own.
“We were talking about proposals,” he says. “You don’t have to say yes. I know you said you’d never do this again.
“But,” Groening continues, “if you do decide to change your mind, I think we will all forgive you.”
Groening then goes on to break what seems to be one of the conference’s tacit rules: He talks politics. “Back when I started ‘Life in Hell’ at the L.A. Weekly,” he says, “I thought that if I could show young people that the authorities don’t have their best interests at heart, they’d grow up and vote people like George Bush out of office.”
Wurman is silent.
“But lots of people I disagree with work for [The Simpsons],” Groening adds quickly. “We have some Republicans who work for ?the show.”
After a short presentation by the guys from Jib Jab media — the creators of the “This Land” animation that lightened up the 2004 election — Quincy Jones comes on to talk about his plan to fight poverty and AIDS in South Africa with the help of young recruits from South-Central. Jill Sobule sings a song about unrequited love while Herbie Hancock accompanies her on piano. Yo-Yo Ma comes back once more, this time to play, with Hancock and Jones and Salma Hayek and Naomi Campbell and neurosurgeon Keith Black, a weird digital lyre that plays samples as your hand passes through lasers. While I’m talking to the son of the guy who invented the lyre, Jones trips over my outstretched foot. He apologizes. “No, it’s my fault,” I blurt.
And I hate to be this way, but there’s something transcendent about nearly tripping a genius. Later that night, when someone asks me how the conference went, I tell him it was amazing.
“I almost tripped Quincy Jones. That’s how amazing.”
In the end, Wurman does not change his mind, but stands onstage, sobbing, while his adoring attendees sing “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” Vodka and caviar chill in the lobby, and as we line up to receive them like communion, it’s hard to shake the feeling that, even if you didn’t skip anything, you missed something. Something, maybe, that might have happened in the future.