Two weeks ago I was wandering around the U.S. District Court looking for something interesting to watch. Occasionally there are some very good trials going on and I like to sit in and watch the excellent lawyering that happens in federal court.

As I sat in the courtroom with its 20 foot ceilings, feeling the authority of the federal court, I was impressed with the skill of the attorneys as they battled over the meaning of contractual terms. The case dealt with the Golden Globes and who had the rights to renew the license to produce them. 

The trial is very important to a very few people. The ideas at stake are almost inconsequential, but the rights to them are highly profitable. 

Being in court is one of the few places where I do not answer my phone, so when my friend John K. Bates called me, I let it go to voicemail. I hadn’t heard from him in quite awhile, but getting yelled at by a federal marshal for answering my phone was not on my to-do list that day.

John was calling to invite me to an event that night. We had met a year or so ago at the Broad Stage for a KCRW event and we had instantly hit it off. So now, when he has events in Santa Monica he thinks of me.

As a technophile, John is involved in Internet companies and has his hands in many pies. One of those pies is TED. If you’ve never heard of TED it is the non-profit devoted to “Technology, Entertainment and Design.” Its tag line is “ideas worth sharing.” They hold conferences where people who are leaders in their field are invited to give the talk of their lives in under 18 minutes.

TED talks are videotaped and then shared with the world freely. I’ve seen some of the most amazing speakers, on astonishing topics, thanks to TED. If you’ve ever wondered what it is like to have a stroke, there’s an epic TED talk by a Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist who had a massive stroke.

The problem with TED is that it is only held a few times a year, and the fans of TED wanted more live events. So TEDx was started, which is a local version of TED under license and adhering to certain quality standards.

TEDx Santa Monica holds events at the William Turner Gallery in Bergamot Station. The gallery is the new home for TEDx Santa Monica for this year. Each TEDx event has a theme and this one was food, a topic near and dear to my heart.

When John called I couldn’t say no to a) seeing him, and b) going to an event that was all about food. He didn’t even have to tell me that Evan Kleiman was going to be there for me to be excited. I love Evan. I’ve listened to her for years on KCRW. Her passion for food and restaurants is legendary, so seeing her in person is always a treat. 

There were other remarkable speakers, such as Mark Anderson who was an investment banker but now runs Farmers’ Markets and is a tomato farmer. He did a speech on how he fell in love with a tomato and made the transition from finance to agriculture.

For some local flavor, Casey Corn, who was born and raised in Santa Monica, did a presentation on the history of olive oil from an anthropological perspective. I learned things about the history of olive oil that I never would have guessed. As a lively and engaging speaker her dynamic personality brought to life ancient Greece and then she traveled through time to modern life. It was easy to see why she earned honors and distinction for her thesis, a study of olive oil.

If you’ve ever wondered about the community gardens, I suggest calling Cris Gutierrez. She is a peace educator, community gardener, environmentalist and writer. Her talk on the history of the gardens and what they provide the community was inspiring. As a member of the Community Gardens Advisory Group, she is dedicated to extending and enriching the city’s gardening realms.

Chef Marcel Vigneron, who fashions himself as an “Entrepreneurial Gastronomist” — I’m not sure what that is, but I like the sound of it — dedicated his life to gastronomy and honing his skills as a chef. His was a free form speech on food and cooking and passion. It was easy to see why he was on “Top Chef.”

The cost of the TEDx event was $25, and it was a great gathering of people from across the spectrum. There were artists and musicians, lawyers and accountants in attendance. The nice part was that this event was only one of many that are done around the world by people wanting to share great ideas because they are great ideas. 

It was in interesting contrast to the morning, where it was people not wanting to share ideas because there was money at stake. I truly enjoyed myself and look forward to the next TEDx event, which is slated for May 3. If you want to know more about TEDx go to and get some great ideas, for not a lot of money.

David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at or (310) 664-9969.

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