A Prayer for the G20 Summit

Unprecedented disruption to our city, and more than a billion dollars spent on security. A billion that is sorely needed elsewhere. Tension and exasperation in equal measure. This weekend’s G20 and G8 Summit meetings here in Toronto (and Huntsville) have been hogging the headlines for weeks. As “Fortress Toronto” gets set to “welcome” both world leaders and protestors this weekend, I offer the following to everyone as a sort of prayer and plea:

 

Here we are in a special place
what are you gonna do here?
now we stand in a special place
what will you do here?
What show of soul
are we gonna get from you?
It could be Deliverance
or History
under these skies so blue,
but if I know you, you’ll
bang the drum
like monkeys do.

Here we are in a fabulous place
what are you gonna dream here?
We are standin’ in this fabulous place
what are you gonna play here?
I know you love the high life,
you love to leap around,
you love to beat your chest
and make your sound,
but not here man!
– this is sacred ground
with a power flowing through,
and if I know you, you’ll
bang the drum like monkeys do.

Now we stand on a rocky shore
your father stood here before you.
I can see his ghost explore you.
I can feel the sea implore you
not to pass on by,
not to walk on by and not to try
– just to let it come
don’t bang the drum
just let it come
don’t bang the drum
do you know how to let it come now?
don’t bang the drum now
just let it come now
don’t bang the drum now
don’t bang the drum

“Don’t Bang the Drum” by The Waterboys. Words and lyrics by Mike Scott and Karl Wallinger, 1985

Go Little Geeks!

At a local “Geek Lunch” a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Ben Lucier, a genuinely nice guy who works in the telecom field. But a big part of Ben’s non-work time is devoted to the Little Geeks Foundation, an organization established to help provide computers to underprivileged kids. I’m delighted to share the news that on June 12th, Ben and the Foundation will be giving away 100 refurbished PCs to children and their families.

Ben says it’s just the first of many planned giveaway events, since the Foundation’s goal is to give away 1,000 computers by the end of 2008. Bravo, Ben, and Go Little Geeks! It’s only a little sad that the computers are running Microsoft Windows. 🙂

CaseCamp Toronto 7

I’ve always been a big supporter of the BarCamp concept (a free self-organizing “unconference” where everyone is expected to contribute or participate), although the original BarCamps are way too technical for me to understand, never mind contribute. So I was happy to find out that CaseCamp Toronto is happening again on April 29th. CaseCamp is a marketing version of BarCamp, with people presenting case studies, and because there’s a big crossover with my favoured tribe of web nerds, there’s usually a heavy dose of social media wonkery. For some reason, these only appear to happen in Canada. My only disappointment is that it’s happening at the exact same time as two other potentially interesting events: StartupCamp 2 and Raindance’s free “99 Minute Screenwriting School.” If anyone makes it to either of those two, would you mind reporting back? And if you’re interested in CaseCamp, sign up soon. There are almost 100 people coming already!

Find the Lost Ring

Ok, I’ve been back from SXSW since yesterday afternoon, but I’m not quite ready to do the full writeup just yet. In fact, I’m extremely distracted right now. At Jane McGonigal’s amazing keynote last Tuesday, she pointed to a new ARG (alternate reality game) that she’d been working on for the upcoming Beijing Olympics. I’m a HUGE Olympics junkie and the trailer she showed just knocked my socks off. So now, I’m immersed in the mystery of The Lost Ring. This isn’t the sort of thing one person can figure out on their own, so if you decide to try to figure it out, jump into the comments here and let’s join forces.

P.S. One of my favourite things about the game so far is the extensive use of Esperanto, the “world language” that hardly anyone speaks. It’s tied into the hopeless optimism of the Olympic movement, and that gets me all choked up, but it’s also supremely geeky.

SXSW 2007 Wrapup

I know this post is long overdue, but it’s actually taken me this long to recover physically and mentally and catch up a bit at work. This year’s SXSW was even bigger than last year, and despite the fears of my friends and I, it was actually somehow a bit more manageable. This was probably due to a few factors. First, I had a panel to prepare for and that allowed me to focus on that to the exclusion of almost everything else on the Saturday. Another sadder reality was that Brooke’s father passed away just a week before I was to fly to Austin. We spent almost the entire next week with her mum in Collingwood, about an hour and a half north of Toronto. That made it pretty impossible to think about or plan my week too carefully. For a few days, it wasn’t even clear I’d be able to make the trip at all. But in a strange way, it made me less anxious about the panel and about figuring out what I wanted to do every hour of every day. I was just happy to be there. And just so you know, Brooke was able to spend some quality time alone with her mum that week and sent me on my way with her blessing. She’s amazing like that.

I didn’t attend a lot of panels, or take a lot of photos or notes, so I thought I’d just give you a list of highlights and lowlights:

Highlights

  • My panel was great. It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet some very sharp people who also happen to be warm and genuine about their faith. I’m really hopeful that I can be involved in something like it again next year.
  • Sticking around a few days was a great idea. Although I didn’t buy a Music badge, there were heaps of free day shows. I got to see The Buzzocks(!), The Polyphonic Spree, Apples in Stereo, Peter Bjorn and John, Robyn Hitchcock with Peter Buck and Okkervil River. There was even free food and beer.
  • During one of the parties during Interactive, I was chatting with my friends Kevin and Baratunde when we were joined by a personable young guy talking about films. He introduced himself as Joe and said he was acting in a film that was at the Film festival. During our 40 minute conversation, it dawned on me that we were hanging out with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, star of The Lookout. He turned out to be a great guy, smart and interesting but completely unpretentious.
  • As a panelist, I got a complimentary Gold badge which allowed me to attend both Interactive and Film events. I took the opportunity to see a few films (Reign Over Me, Exiled, and Eagle Versus Shark) and this was a great break from the intensity of hanging around with smart geeks or rocking out at concerts.
  • The panels and keynotes I did attend were almost all interesting and valuable.
  • I focussed more on my writing about film and made a number of useful contacts. My decision to launch Toronto Screen Shots was based on attending a great panel called “Blogging About Film.”

Lowlights

  • The weather in Austin this year was kind of crappy. It rained for several days, which made getting around fairly miserable.
  • Hotels were expensive and filled up really early. Despite sharing with my friends Neil and Kevin, which involved spending five of my eight nights on either an air mattress or a rollaway bed, it still cost me more than US$1,000. I’m going to book my room by July or August next time.
  • Almost everyone I know had some travel snafus on the way home. I wasn’t immune. I flew back Saturday from Austin to Detroit without incident, but my flight from Detroit to Toronto was cancelled for “unscheduled maintenance.” Despite the fact that it’s a one hour flight, there were no flights available until Monday or Tuesday, and the airline would only pay for one night’s accomodation. I banded together with a few other Torontonians and we took a taxi across the border to Windsor and jumped on the train. I got home about seven hours late, and it cost me more money, but there was no way I was staying two days in Detroit, especially at my own expense. Boo airlines!
  • As always, the week went by far too quickly and I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with people. There were a few people whom I’d wanted to meet for the first time, and didn’t get the chance. Ah well, I’ll be back next year!