Image: TEDxMtHood

TED talks require no explanation these days—unless you've really gone off the grid—but you may not be quite as familiar with TED talks’s more approachable offspring, TEDx. Unlike its bolder, global-reaching parent, TEDx typically taps into local knowledge and local concerns, and gives hometown heroes some props. The “x” stands for “independently organized”, and it’s been on the go in Portland under various monikers for four years; TEDxMt.Hood distinguishes itself through a focus on building long-lasting community ties and featuring local speakers and business sponsors.

This weekend TEDxMt.Hood will gather fourteen speakers around the theme of "Roads Less Travelled" with the usual suspects represented—think do-gooders, academics, and self-help gurus—as well as local musicians, visual artists, and athletes. The group captures the colorful range of ways Oregonians move through—and think about—the world. But if you don’t have time to listen to them all hold forth, we’ve selected our top five picks from TEDXMtHood.

Here's what to know, and what to hope for from the TEDxMtHood speakers we are most excited about:

Kelly Schwan

What to know: When Kelly Schwan met a wheelchair-rugby player at the 2008 Paralympics, she probably couldn't foresee embarking on a 10,000-mile cycling tour from Portland to Patagonia with him. The pair is now engaged and Schwan dedicates her life to medicine, traveling, sporting, and disability advocacy.

What to hope for: National Geographic photos from her travels, and for more Portland cyclists to make it into National Geographic.

 

Alialujah Choir

What to know: In 2008 members of local bands Norfolk & Western and M.Ward partnered temporarily to pen a song about a man interred at Lone Fir Cemetery. But after the song was done, the ghosts kept knocking. Alia Farah of Weinland was brought on board, and the trio became Alialujah Choir. Since then the band has expanded from making indie-folk albums to experimentation with dance, the graphic novel form, and more.

What to hope for: Tour stories from the band's recent jaunt through the Pacific Northwest with Neko Case.

 

Sabina Haque

What to know: Politically engaged artist Sabina Haque brings a painterly sensibility to unexpected places, like the video game Call of Duty's map of Karachi, Pakistan. Haque just happened to be raised in Karachi, and brings her full journey— from Pakistan to America (and back)—to bear on the artifacts of American warfare.

What to hope for: Insight into the values and viewpoints forged in the fires of American wars and war narratives.

 

Tom Henderson

What to know: PSU math professor, improv comedian, and co-host of the podcast Math for Primates, Tom Henderson is a genre-hopping master of numbers with a rare talent: he can make them interesting to most primates (including you and me).

What to hope for: Henderson has likened the struggle to grasp mathematical concepts to the pain of exercise; here's hoping for a mathematically-induced endorphin high after he speaks.

Jia Jiang

What to know: Jia Jiang has made a career out of encouraging people to strengthen their "courage muscles," and actively seeks out humiliating—err, make that bracing, experiences. He regularly asks total strangers things like "Can I take your patrol car for a spin?" and "Will you read this passage out of my own book to me?"

What to hope for: With your mathematical and courage muscles honed, you will be mentally and emotionally drained—and ready for the perfect end to a Saturday night (in bed, with a buzz).

 

TEDxMtHood takes place on Saturday, May 2 at Revolution Hall. 

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