Posts Tagged ‘SXSW’

Letter From New York December 28, 2011

December 28, 2011

Or, as it seems to me…

I am sitting on a couch at the cottage, feeling like an overstuffed gnocchi. It has been several days of feasting and fun; my longest standing friend, Sarah Malone, was here with her husband Jim, their son Kevin, who generously considers me his uncle. Sarah’s sister Mary Clare was here with her husband Jim and their son Michael, who is now on his way to Rio for New Year’s. I spent last Christmas with them; this Christmas they came to me and it was restful and joyful to be surrounded by old friends with whom I have shared so much through all these years.

It’s my hope that everyone’s holidays were as goodwill filled as mine.

The sun is slowly beginning to set, a soft grey is entering the room, the Christmas tree lights sparkle while a fire burns gently in the stove. Soon we will begin cooking for the evening.

The year is ending with a soft sigh; I’m glad for that. It is lovely to begin the march toward New Year’s Eve in the gentle company of Kevin and Michelle.

I am looking forward to 2012. I’ll be attending the CES Show in Las Vegas and will be covering South By Southwest as well as being on a panel there. Hopefully, I will make a pilgrimage to Martha’s Vineyard to Jeffrey and Joyce’s as I have in the last three of four years. It’s my plan to take the Empire Builder from Portland to Chicago, one of the two most beautiful train rides in America, I’m told. I’m sure I will make a trip or two to Minneapolis and there’ll be unexpected business opportunities that will take me hither and yon.

It is a year to look forward to.

It is my hope that readers are also looking forward to 2012. Once a salesman, always a salesman and so I live in hope. But then, so do we all – live in hope. We have to or we would go quite mad I suspect, looking around the world we inhabit.

We have Syria in revolt against Assad, a restless Russia, an Iraq that appears to be splitting along sectarian lines, pirates seizing freighters, an Iran threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz, and a nuclear North Korea run by an untested 28 year old. Put it all together, it’s not a pretty picture. But it’s never been a pretty picture and yet we go on. Why? At the bottom, we live in hope, hope that if in nothing else, in our small corner of the world, we can make a world safe for ourselves, that we can do something that will better our lot and the lot of those around us.

This year, as in some years past, I did not give gifts to friends and family but made donations to causes – the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, the USO and to a challenged family in Reading, PN so that they might have gifts for their children under the tree. It seemed a better use of resources than to search out trinkets for people with too many of them already.

Having the Malone/Eros clan here was a gift to me and I hope that Christmas communicated to them the gift they are and I hope the gifts I gave in the name of family and friends helped them know the gift they are to me. Listening to NPR one day this season, a commentator was talking about Christmas as a time to show the people we love that we loved them. I hope I did and I hope the people in your world shared their love with you.

Now we move on into the New Year and as the New Year approaches, I will focus on living in hope as it is in hope that we are all able to provide gifts to the world in which we live.

Happy New Year!

April 11, 2011

Letter From New York
April 11, 2011
Or, as it seems to me…

There hasn’t been a missive in a couple of weeks; it’s not for lack of effort – there have been several drafts.

But I was never happy with what I have seen on the page. Coming back from SXSW, I felt the hope that was in the crowd at the Interactive portion – people could use technology to make the world better.

However, when I returned I was overwhelmed by events in the world. Libya. A third war for the U.S. Ongoing troubles across the Arab world, the price of oil soaring, budgetary crises in Washington, nuclear meltdown in Japan, a flurry of publicity and chitter chatter about the iPad 2.

I ask myself all the time: what is really important? The arrival of the iPad 2? Yes, it’s important. Apple and its devices are BIG news. But so is what is happening in Kabul and Baghdad. And all of that is pretty incredible and we have become, I’m afraid, immune to it – we have lived with this for too many years. We are at war in a lot of places: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and, as someone noted to me today, how about Mexico, which is on the edge of exploding? That’s the way it is in the world today.

I can’t ignore it. And I can’t do much about it. I write regular letters to my Representatives and hope they hear what I am saying. There is a huge dialogue in the country about bringing down the deficit but it seems focused on Amtrak and NPR and PBS and all kinds of social service programs that really represent a fraction of the budget while no one talks about the cost of the wars we are engaged in or how do we make Social Security really viable for the next 100 years. We’re not having the conversations we really need to have.

I’m angry with everyone right now. I think the Republicans are demagogues and the Democrats aren’t offering real alternatives. And I don’t like waking up in the morning to NPR because the news seems all bad but I don’t change the channel because I feel I need to know what is really going on. And while I am depending on NPR to give the ugly news of what is going on I am also faced with a Congress that wants to defund NPR so that I won’t wake up in the morning knowing how bad things are. Because then we can live in the America that they think we’re living in which is not the America we’re living in.

We are, as a country, way down on the lists of good things. We’re not at the top of lists of almost anything. And that really worries me. It doesn’t seem to worry many people how far down the list we are in terms of medical care. Doesn’t it worry anyone else that Costa Rica is better than we are in medical care overall? It does me. Now granted, that’s overall and not necessarily a specific situation. In a specific trauma situation we may well be the best but we’re not overall.

We’re 17th in math and science these days. And should I really worry about this? Yes, because this is my home. Once in the long ago and far away, I thought about emigrating to Canada or Australia but didn’t because America is my home, my homeland.

The United States is so many different things to so many different people, all inhabiting the boundaries, physically and psychologically of this unique, strange, wonderful, magnificent, convoluted thing called “America.” It is the dichotomies, rabid politics of some, the yearnings and tensions, the palpable ache for something better that makes this country what it is and today it is am much a riot as it ever has been if not more so.

My angst doesn’t change that the sun is shining in while I am working on this, with a nice Italian white wine while waiting for an old friend, which is also much of what life is about, so we can sit at lunch and talk about all of these strange things.

Letter From New York, SXSW, Day Four the day after, 03 15 11

March 15, 2011

SXSW, Day Four, in retrospect… March 15, 2011

So I am beginning this blog before I go to bed but won’t finish it until after I am awake again in the morning though I am doing my best to figure out all the things that have happened today which was, really, another interesting day of information overload.
We did an interview with Macky Alston of Auburn Media of the Auburn Seminary and an Odyssey member along with Jeanine Caunt, who is his cohort and Associate Director. He said some amazing things, mostly about how the last “generation” of tech kids was all about social media but that the next “generation” of tech aficionados was all about gaming.
And that’s something we’ve been hearing regularly here at SXSW – that it is the time of gaming and the way we might use it might actually be the savior of education as well as any other number of intellectual pursuits. Gaming is BIG! Gaming is HUGE! And if we can harness the power of gaming on the web and turn it to productive purposes such as educational opportunities we might have a “win-win” situation.
Which brings me to the keynote of the day, a one on one with Felicia Day, an actress from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER who is also an avid game player who then took her passion for gaming online to developing a series for the web called THE GUILD which has had one hundred million streams that then led to her developing another program which is now being sponsored by Microsoft and Sprint and she is in a bit of online hog heaven in what is happening to her and her series online. She hit the web jackpot.
And from listening to her, she deserved to hit the internet jackpot because she devoted herself passionately to making what she was doing online work – her presence was witty, funny, passionate, driven, emotionally engaged, desperately charged to make things work and profoundly lucky.
As she was talking about making Dragon Age: Redemption, her new web series, she was casting about for a Director of Photography. In what seemed a really devil may care attitude she entrusted someone who had volunteered to work on the production to come up with a DP. When he told her he had someone and that he was okay, she thought may be she should actually check out his credits and it turned out to be the DP from the first six seasons of LOST, who happened to be a fan of her work.
It’s her karma, she thinks, that these things work out the way they do. And it seems that she may be right – she has that aura of Kismet about her. It came through in her speech but what also came through was that she was absolutely 111% committed to what she was doing.
And that was wonderful and amazing and inspiring.
There were other good things about the day. I had an interesting conversation about Transmedia with Matt Mullin who is pulling together a Transmedia event this fall in San Francisco.
Transmedia? Telling the same story across a multiplicity of platforms. And that is the way the future of story telling is headed. How do we convey the same story across a variety of platforms? It’s the buzzword of the time and it is also the necessity of the time. This is what all folks who are working in the media need to be conquering – the ability to tell the same story across multiple platforms with multiple nuances. It’s a huge challenge and it is the demand of the time – and of the technology we are utilizing.
I also heard Richard Bullwinkle, Chief Evangelist for Rovi; speak, talking about making Channel Guides easier and more cost effective. And, interestingly enough, that was all about driving things to the mobile platform where software development was easier and quicker than software development for the set top box. And what I came away with was a sense of how vulnerable are the current giants in the field, the Comcasts, the Cablevisions, the Cox cable systems. As I said in an earlier blog, Goliath is in the field and he currently controls it but David has entered the competition with his slingshot ready to go…

Letter From New York by way of Austin, TX and SXSW March 13, 2011

March 13, 2011

I started this blog yesterday, sitting in a room of people who are becoming untethered. The panel was entitled: The Last Broadcast: Entertainment is Social – What’s Next?
10% of this audience of about 500 have either never been a cable or satellite subscriber or have cut the cord; which I have done. These are the folks who are at the center of digital transition and so one would suspect are changing faster than others. It’s most noticeable in college graduates. Ten years ago when folks graduated from college and set up housekeeping for the first part of their adult lives, they didn’t order landlines for their apartments. Now they’re not just ordering landlines, they’re not putting in cable or satellite, relying on Internet sources for their video content.
We are now co-viewing with people all over the world thanks to Twitter, Facebook, etc. And this is expanding our natural impulse to want to co-view with people. Jeff Cole pointed out the he and his wife “watched” the Academy Awards together while she was in Los Angeles and he was in Abu Dhabi.
3rd party recommendations rule our life; Twitter and Facebook make it even more so. And we have reached a point where there is DEEP fan engagement in a way that is different from fan engagement in the past. For example, people tweet as characters in dramas that air. For example, there is a woman who tweets as Betty Draper in Mad Men. [At first AMC wanted to shut her down then went, hey! what good p.r.]
After the panel was over Greg and I interviewed Jeff Cole from the Digital Center at the Annenberg School of Business who underscored the rapidity with which the world is moving to mobile devices and the opportunities he sees for faith communities in the mobile world .
We then tracked down and got to spend some time with Daniel Hope, from the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest who had led the panel: Everything is amazing and nobody is happy…
In this panel he and his fellow presenter, Zach Pratt, talked about how we seemed to be living in a time of technological entitlement. We have amazing technologies and we expect them to work flawlessly and are perhaps inappropriately angry when they do not. We’re living in a time of a new set of addictions generated by use of technology – of people alienated from the rest of the world because of their too deep involvement with the net. However, on the flip side of that is that technology also allows us to reach out and offer compassion to folks quickly. [My experience recently: a colleague I have been out of touch with for several years was fired from her job; I was able through the net to reach out and give my condolences and support almost instantly and have it received and appreciated almost instantly]. We are able through the net to be able to give tangible support to victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in a more timely fashion than ever in history. We are able to see and experience their tragedy in ways unimaginable in the past and if we allow ourselves to be open to the information technology brings we are able to open our compassionate selves to a wider range of people and situations. As with most things, we can use technology to help better ourselves or to indulge the darker parts of ourselves.
Again, I was struck by the dizzying array of interesting choices at SXSW Interactive. I need five of me to get to as many places as I would like to get to. Topped by the fact that yesterday the Film portion of SXSW opened, the buzz has only intensified with the glitterati now joining the digirati for an intoxicating brew of people and technology.
One of the reasons that SXSW has become such an important hub is that it mixes culture with technology, technology with hope. While the decline of America is debated pro and con all the time these days, here the streets are filled with hope and exuberance for a future that is bright with possibility, not just in America but also in the world.

Day One at SXSW

March 11, 2011

SXSW – Day One, March 11, 2011

Greg and I arrived at SXSW Interactive, Film and Music Festival safely. The security lines at Newark Liberty Airport were eerily non-existent and we got through in record time, which was the theme of our travels – all went smoothly, which is how you want travel to go.
Austin itself is, at night, a jewel of city, rising up out of the Texas plains, glittering, beckoning and promising. We arrived at the hotel, checked in, settled and walked across the parking lot to the legendary Threadgill’s Restaurant, a down home Texas place which, in its various incarnations, has nurtured many an artist, including Janis Joplin.
Over dinner, we poured over the SXSW official app, which is available on the iPhone, Android and Blackberry smartphones. There is a prodigious amount of material there; it’s free. If you have an interest in finding out what is going on at SXSW and have a smartphone, I suggest you go into your app store and download the app. It gives a blow-by-blow account of what is happening, what kind of panels there are and who is on them.
It also lets you know the 579 companies that are exhibiting at SXSW and how to find them. It has comprehensive maps, helps you create and organize a schedule. It seems to be a great app for this event. I found a few glitches in the search function but still pretty amazing.
There are a couple of conference calls I have to do and then I’m headed off to pick up my credentials and to get down to what is happening. The number of panels that I would like to attend is overwhelming. Each time slot has more than one that would be worth attending. Two that have caught my attention so far are “Lessons Learned from the Arab Spring Revolutions” and “The Potential for Augmented Reality”.
There is also a panel about digital changes happening to the Cargo Container business; new digital tools are apparently about to radically improve that business. You can also learn about creating your own event around digital advances, and another one about how textbooks may be morphed into social gaming opportunities, a radically new way of imagining education. Apparently in both Texas and California, states followed by most others in education, the traditional textbook is on the path of the dodo bird.
There are at least six panels happening at 2:00 I would like to attend. Same for 3:30 and same for 5:00, which has a panel on “Hate Gone Viral” as well as one discussing the impact of “singularity” – when machines are smarter than we are. Hello, Watson!
And as the days go on, over 2000 bands will be performing at SXSW and hundreds of films will premiere. There are classes offered by the festival on how not to be overwhelmed by the festival. Sounds like a good thing to me.
And so it goes. Greg and I have arrived and overwhelm begins. We’re excited. All of Austin has been taken over by the festival, a hotel room is impossible to find and the streets are crowded with an interesting mix of people. Right now, it’s the place to be if you are a digirati – or a film buff or a music aficionado. 100,000 people are attending, the biggest SXSW yet. More to come…