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:


  • 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.”


  • 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!

Compilation Champs 2007

Compilation Champs 45

Every year I’ve attended SXSW, I’ve put together a compilation CD to give away to people I know, and this year is no different. The playlist is finalized, the liner notes are almost complete, and I’ve started burning the discs, but I’d like to know how many to burn. I usually give away about 30 each year, but if you’re coming to Austin, and haven’t received one before, and would like one, please comment.

I won’t be leaking the playlist, but if you like Chinese reggae, Uruguayan punk, or Bollywood novelty songs, you should be happy with this year’s disc.

March 8, 2007: I’ve now posted the playlist for all those who are curious.

7th Annual Pre-SXSW Post

Yes, it’s hard to believe, but I’ll be attending my seventh South by Southwest in a few weeks. Things will be a little different this year for a number of reasons.

See Me Speak at SXSW 2007
  1. This year, for the first time ever, I’m speaking on a panel. Not seeing anything on the schedule about the subject, I proposed a panel on faith, and it was accepted. It’s entitled Ghost in the Machine: Spirituality Online and it’s scheduled for Saturday March 10 from 5:00-6:00. I’ve assembled a panel of rock stars who will say most of the intelligent things, but I’m still nervous and excited.
  2. As a panelist, I received a free Gold pass this year, which means for the first time I can attend both Interactive and Film events. I’m still unclear how ticketing to film screenings works, but I’m hoping to actually see a few films this time. A few of the scheduled films recently screened at Sundance, so it might be a good chance to see some stuff that won’t make it to Toronto until at least the fall, if at all.
  3. The Interactive section of the conference ends on Tuesday, but I’m not leaving Austin until Saturday morning, so I’m hoping to catch a few bands during the Music portion, and just generally hang out in one of my favourite American cities with some of my favourite Americans.

If you’re going to be there, make sure you say hello! And it’s also acceptable to buy me a Shiner. After all, I’m a crusty conference veteran now!

P.S. Make sure to check out SXSWBaby for the latest news and updates.

Taking It SLO

Beautiful Slovenia
Beautiful Slovenia (images copyright Boštjan Burger)

Brooke and I are off on a well-deserved break. We’ll be spending ten days in Slovenia. I’ll try to post some photos and maybe even some travelogue type stuff but no promises. In the meantime, enjoy the gorgeous photos of Boštjan Burger, who maintains an amazing repository of photos and VR panoramas that cover the entire country. If you hit refresh, you should see a different picture above each time.

We’re going to be staying in a wide variety of accomodations, including a former jail, a castle, an ultra-modern “boutique” hotel, a gourmet restaurant, and a working winery. Slovenia is a tiny country which encompasses both the Alps and the Mediterranean, so it will be like seeing all of Europe in ten days.