On the opening night of SXSW Interactive/Music/Film fest in Austin, Texas, Uncle Weed strolls 6th St. in search of rolling papers and describes the surroundings of partiers from geeks to spring breakers, police on horseback, tattoo parlours, death metal pizza, bars, grills, taverns, microbrews, civic economics and impending cultural chaos. Featuring music by Dan Mangan “Road Regrets” and The Numbskulz.
“We are the naked marketers. Hosts Pete Wright, Megan Strand, and Dane Christensen and guests are dedicated to pulling back the veil on marketing ridiculousness and folly, and helping communicators develop a strategy that is both effective, authentic, and fully awesome.”
While on the streets of Austin, I came across tech pundit Leo Laporte (known for Tech TV, Lab with Leo, This Week in Tech, etc.). I appeared on Leo’s Lab show a few years back discussing analog culture in the digital age. This time, i offered him an envelope of HootSuite goodness to his delight. My pals John Biehler and Jason Sanders captured the interaction as Leo was fresh from crowd surfing at the Diggnation party and visiting with Mashable’s Pete Cashmore and some chick mostly from Vancouver.
Jason snapped the real time photo and John captured the screen of the streaming show later showing Leo and the audience’s point of view. Alas my witticisms were snipped from the archived version in favour of other wandering geeks but believe when i tell ya it was a beauty ;-).
I’m on a one week tour — a series of events focusing on bikes and cities timed to coincide with the release of my Bicycle Diaries book. I told the publisher I didn’t think I’d be very good as a reader — which is the usual way authors are trotted out to promote their books — so I suggested instead we do a series of forums focusing on our cities and how bikes have become a symptom of a new interest in urban living in North America. (This has a little bit of the added effect of hinting that the book is not just about riding a bike.) The publicity department of Viking, the publisher, generously helped put these events together. Sometimes they are held in bookstores, as those are the venues the publisher knows; and sometimes, like last night in Austin, in small theaters.
At each event there will be a representative of the local city government; an advocate; a theorist/designer/planner or historian; …and me. We each do short (10-15 min.) presentations about our area of expertise and then there is some Q&A and then we’re done. So far, I’ve been to NYC and Austin and Seattle and it’s working pretty well. By bringing these elements and people together the events serve as a catalyst, a reminder and a symbol that perception and policies are changing — about bikes as a way of getting around and about how our lives in cities can be. The interest and turnout might be as much for the content as what’s on stage.
The morning after I arrived here I rode around Austin and discovered that a surprising amount of the downtown area has been given over to parking.
There are parking lots everywhere and, maybe because of the oppressive heat in the Texas summers, lots of indoor parking structures as well. Some of these take up a whole block and some only take up the ground floor of a downtown building. Either way, they kill any potential for life, business, interchange and encounters on those blocks. It seems that not only did the city accommodate cars with some massive freeways that are often jammed up, but they have given some of their best downtown real estate simply to house automobiles. I was reminded that the vibrant “people” streets (South Congress and 6th St.), no matter if you love or hate those scenes, would never exist if there were massive parking structures on every block there. The vacant lots on S. Congress are now filled with tent kiosks and tiny Airstreams and other trailers that serve as specialized food carts (like the ones in Portland). I got a mushroom tamale and berry smoothie at one, and they were great.
Both a preview and recap of SXSW 2009 as Uncle Weed and the Quebecois Correspondent discuss the noted media conference and extravaganza featuring UW’s spiel F@ck Stats, Make Art – a soliloquy for quality and integrity in creation.
Wandering the streets of Austin with old pal Yaki Niku, Uncle Weed recounts a strange international steel ball tossing tournament in a remote Japanese village known for radioactive hot springs. The multi-national, dignitaries, dubbed the Genki Monkeys, represented eagerly through much drunkeness at the hands of mayor and his cohorts, followed by Born to be Wild karaoke and outdoor hot spring soaking riverside.
Followed by an early morning breakfast of raw eggs, a hungover beat down by of old folks with tape measures, and a long afternoon of waiting around in the valley in discomfort due to a queasy formal dinner and an endless tour of world liquors.
In a couple joint sessions on the balcony at SXSW, Uncle Weed recaps seeing (and meeting) folk-hero Billy Bragg at Cedar Street Courtyard documentary film about Dr.
Hunter S. Thompson called Gonzo, plus seeing Athens rockers The Whigs at Stubbs, New Zealand experiential phenom Liam Finn at the Alehouse, and Canadian legends Blue Rodeo and friends (including Tom Cochran) at the Smokehouse – before fading from party exhaustion and happiness. Plus expresses concerns about expensive water, cigarette marketing, “unofficial” festivals and extreme douche bags.