Archive for March, 2012

Letter From New York

March 26, 2012

March 26, 2012

Or, as it seems to me…


It is evening at the Cottage, after a restful weekend.  I returned here Friday after two weeks “on the road,” mostly down in Austin, TX for South by Southwest, a huge Interactive, Film and Music Festival.

It started out some twenty-five years ago as a music festival and it has grown and grown until now 125,000 people descend on Austin each year for one part or all of the Festival.  My main focus was the Interactive portion though I lingered on for some of the film part.  It is, without a doubt, the most intellectually interesting conference I have ever attended – this year and last and I am already looking forward to next year.

One of the defining things about the Interactive portion is the hopefulness that underlies it, that the gift of technology is, indeed, a gift and that it will help solve, not create, problems.  In any given hour of any given day, there were at least two or three panels I wanted to attend and since I was not able to clone myself I was constantly making hard choices.  My colleague, Greg Nelson, was there with me, shooting video and producing video stories all by shooting exclusively on an iPad 2.

When we went to register the iPad, the man at the camera desk looked at us as if we were rather mad, shaking his head at was obviously a first for him – but we needed it to be official if we were going to be shooting with it so it proudly was graced with a green camera tag throughout the conference.

I learned that much this year was about “vicinity based software,” apps that told you where your friends were, where you were going to be so they could get there before you or who in the restaurant you were eating in was looking for your particular skill set.  A new browser was launched though I am not sure we really need another browser but it’s if you’re interested in looking it up.  It claims to be spam free, which is a good thing.

It was a year of catching up; there were no GREAT things that sprouted this year, no huge trends except for “vicinity based” and all that noise was really refinement of what had come before – think Foursquare.  But yet there was that underlying sense of hope and that is one of the things that is so attractive about SXSW [as it is known], that the hope that springs eternal in the human heart is manifested there in the Interactive portion; the music part and the film festival – for the twelve days of SXSW Austin is a town that is infused with hope on all levels and it is good to be there, submerged in hope in a world that often doesn’t feel that way.

So I came home to the Cottage, grateful to be back in my own place of shelter, to catch up with myself, to reconnect with home and hearth.  The days have been grey but good for reflection and I was awash in the bliss of it.  I was having a lazy Sunday afternoon brunch with my friend Larry Divney when I got a call from Nick Stuart, CEO of Odyssey.

On Friday I had been in meetings with Jim Marrinan; he had been working with Odyssey as a consultant for several years and had become a friend during that time.  We were brainstorming how to approach folks for charitable giving.  He was there all day; I spent ninety minutes with him.  He left before I had a chance to say good-bye.

Saturday he arrived at LAX, suffered a heart attack and passed before he could get home.  Since hearing the news I have been overwhelmed by sadness and by the heightened sense of the fragility of life, its quick passing, the suddenness with which things can change.  A Santa Claus like figure, Jim was full of the HO HO HO and never did I hear him say an unkind word – even when he had the right to.  We met Friday morning at the coffee machine, exchanged pleasantries; he told me he had heard good things about some recent projects.  So like Jim, praise before anything.

I will miss him and am glad that life crossed our paths so I did know him; my life was richer for the moments shared.  I will miss him and use his passing to remember we are all but whispers in the wind and should be kind to each other while we can.